Cayman Islands lawmakers have approved 22 pieces of legislation in just seven days of meetings over the past two weeks. Some of the more controversial items on government’s agenda are due to come before the Legislative Assembly this week.
All of bills approved so far still need a third and final reading in the Assembly, but that is largely a formality, and it is expected that all previously approved legislation will pass with few amendments. One exception is the Elections Bill, which was approved Friday but is expected to face significant changes in committee.
The bills passed on second reading by the House include:
Lawmakers unanimously passed new legislation aimed at protecting the rights of disabled residents and visitors in the Cayman Islands.
The Disabilities [Solomon Webster] Bill , named after a former Special Olympics athlete who was murdered in West Bay district in 2014, will create a register of individuals with disabilities.
All of bills approved so far still need a third and final reading in the Assembly, but that is largely a formality.
The legislation seeks to implement some of the proposals in the Cayman Islands Disabilities Policy, also created in 2014, with the aim of safeguarding the legal rights of the disabled.
The bill will ensure the local disabled community is not prevented, due to any physical or mental condition, from participating in any public or governmental proceeding. It also seeks to provide reasonable access for the disabled to public buildings and facilities.
Also created under the proposal is a National Council for Persons with Disabilities to act as the protector and advocate for those with disabilities, to make sure they have equal rights and opportunities under local law.
The Criminal Records [Spent Convictions] Bill was approved after several hours of debate.
The legislation allows criminals who have served their time and spent a specific period after their release from prison crime-free, to have previous convictions removed from their permanent record. The bill replaces the Cayman Islands offender rehabilitation laws and is largely aimed at putting criminals back to work once the legal system has deemed them to have paid their debt to society.
This bill also creates an Expungement Board to review and make a determination on released offenders’ applications to have their criminal record cleared.
Criminal convictions cannot be removed from an individual’s record if he or she is sentenced to life imprisonment, or if a conviction results in a five-year prison sentence, except when the person convicted is a minor. Offenses committed against corporations also cannot be removed from one’s record under the bill.
A number of bills regulating the local financial services industry, largely in preparation for a mid-2017 evaluation of the Cayman Islands anti-money laundering and terrorism financing protections, were approved without lengthy debate.
Those include the Auditors Oversight Bill, the Monetary Authority [Amendment] Bill, the Trusts Bill, the Proliferation Financing [Prohibition] Bill, the Terrorism [Amendment] Bill and the Non-Profit Organizations Bill.
Most of the amendments involve updates to existing legislation, but the Non-Profit Organizations Bill is entirely new legislation aimed at ensuring local nonprofit companies and trusts are not used as “cover” for illicit criminal activities.
Drugs and police
A number of changes to police and criminal procedures were approved, most notably in amendments to the Police Law and to the Misuse of Drugs Law.
The Police Law was altered to allow individuals other than police officers to serve court summonses for witnesses in criminal cases. The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service has long bemoaned the fact that police officers were being “taken off the street” to deal with a service that could be handled by civilians, including private sector workers, if need be.
The legislature also approved the importation and use of cannabis oil for medical purposes. The government is still uncertain how the substance, which remains illegal in most of the world, will be supplied here, but the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill clears the way for doctors to prescribe the oil as a treatment for cancer and other diseases.
Patents and trademarks
Three bills that govern how patents, trademarks and design rights are to be granted and protected in the Cayman Islands were also approved. The changes are part of Cayman’s overall effort to update its intellectual property rights regime.