Governor approves plan for JPs to join search review

Two justices of the peace to work on review of police response to missing boaters report

Police officers search a Bodden Town beach as a shoreline search for signs for the missing boaters got under way on Wednesday morning. - PHOTO: TANEOS RAMSAY

Governor Helen Kilpatrick has agreed to sanction two Caymanian justices of the peace to assist in the inquiry into the police search and rescue effort for five missing boaters.

The decision comes after legislators unanimously backed a private members’ motion, filed by Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush and amended following consultation with government, that called for Caymanian eyes and ears to be included in the review.

The governor had previously announced that U.K. Coastguard Commander Andrew Jenkins of the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency would conduct the inquiry.

Some legislators, led by Mr. Bush, questioned the independence of the review if it was carried out solely by a British agency reporting to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and called for a full judicial inquiry. After a lengthy debate Monday, a compromise solution was put forward, which the governor has now approved.

In a statement Tuesday, she said, “I am satisfied that the MCA are a body that is independent of the Cayman Islands Government, the RCIPS, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Governor’s Office.

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“However, in response to the motion, I will invite the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition to each nominate a Justice of the Peace to work with Commander Jenkins to ensure that the review is independent and meets the needs of the Cayman Islands Community. I remain committed to making the findings from this review public.”

Calls for an investigation into the police response followed a series of complaints about the rescue effort, including allegations that they had been too slow to react to reports that a boat was missing at sea. Three men, Gary Mullings, Edsell Haylock and Nicholas Watler, and two children, Kamron and Kanyi Brown, ages 11 and 9, respectively, have been lost at sea since March 6, when they did not return from a trip to 12 Mile Bank. Their upturned boat was found 25 miles offshore the following day.

The inquiry will examine police’s response as well as the island’s search and rescue capability.

Following Monday’s debate, Premier Alden McLaughlin said the inclusion of two local JPs on the review team would help assure the credibility of the inquiry in the eyes of the community.

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