Under a new law that came into effect in February, a life sentence passed by a Cayman court on a person convicted of murder must be for a specific period.

Until 1991, the death penalty was the only sentence upon conviction for murder in Cayman. Local authorities were in the process of having a gallows built at Northward Prison when the U.K. announced that the death penalty was being abolished in British Caribbean Dependent Territories. The mandatory sentence for murder then became imprisonment for life.

There was no means by which people convicted of murder in Cayman could seek early release or have their sentences reviewed after a period of time. Their only option was some representation to the governor, who had discretionary powers under the Prisons Law, to order the release on license (specific conditions) of a prisoner serving a life sentence.

After a review of the issue in 2006, attorneys on Cayman’s Human Rights Committee (as it was then known) concluded that laws imposing life sentences for all types of offenses of murder were contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as other international human rights treaties.

The Cayman Islands Constitution of 2009 included a Bill of Rights, Freedoms and Responsibilities. Article 3 states: “No person shall be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

In 2013, attorneys for a man convicted of murder filed a petition with the Grand Court on the grounds that the sentence of life imprisonment amounted to “inhuman and degrading treatment” and therefore breached human rights guaranteed by the Cayman Islands Bill of Rights. The lawsuit sought to establish a legal precedent that would end the policy of automatically sentencing murderers to serve the rest of their lives in prison. Its success would have given murderers the right to have their sentences reviewed.

Also in 2013, the renamed Human Rights Commission issued a report that concluded unequivocally that the Cayman Islands should reform its policy of imposing life sentences without parole in all murder cases or face being forced to adopt a system from another country.

At the time, there were 19 people serving life sentences for murder at Northward Prison.

Legislators grappled with the issue and after debate passed the Conditional Release Bill in October 2014. Among the bill’s memorandum of objects and reasons was this statement: “It is now considered inhuman and degrading punishment for any person to be incarcerated for the rest of his life without the possibility of ever being released …. All prisoners serving what used to be whole life terms must have a specified term of imprisonment.”

The new law introduced a system that sets general guidelines for the release of all prisoners on license conditions. In order to put the provisions of the law into full effect, a nine-member Conditional Release Board had to be appointed and transitional arrangements had to be put in place. The law came into effect on Feb. 15, 2016.

The law requires that a judge impose a specific term before a prisoner can be considered for parole. For murder, the term is 30 years before the person is eligible to apply for release, subject to exceptional extenuating or aggravating circumstances.

The first sentence for murder under this regime was in May, in the case of Tamara Butler, who killed her six-year-old daughter in October 2014. Justice Alistair Malcolm explained the process by which he arrived at the length of Butler’s prison term. He started with the prescribed 30 years, then raised it to 34 years because of the mental and physical agony the child must have endured while being stabbed 35 times as she tried to run from her mother. He then considered Butler’s paranoid personality, which he said lowered her degree of culpability; he reduced the 34 years by six to reach 28 years. Finally, he deducted the one year and 174 days Butler had been in custody. The specific period before Butler can apply for conditional release was therefore set at 26 years and 191 days.

On Dec. 19, Justice Charles Quin passed sentence in the case of Justin D’Angelo Ramoon, 25, and Osbourne Wilfred Douglas, 30, who were convicted of murdering Jason Charles Powery on the night of July 1, 2015, in the vicinity of the Globe Bar on Martin Drive, off Shedden Road. Citing the exceptional aggravating circumstances and the need for deterrence, he imposed a term of 34 years on Douglas, 35 years on Ramoon. Both will receive credit for 522 days in custody.

For prisoners sentenced to life before the law came into effect, the law requires that their case records be sent to the Grand Court for a specific sentence to be pronounced in public within two years. Retired Justice Alexander Henderson has returned to Grand Court for preliminary hearings involving persons convicted of murder in trials he presided over, but no new rulings have yet resulted.

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  1. Perhaps it’s just my imagination but it seems that the softer we are on crime the more crime we have.

    I am well aware of the dangers of wrongful convictions based on eyr witness testimony.

    But in my personal opinion there are certain people who are kust so wicked and vicious it makes no sense to keep them alive.

    As for the European Humam Rights geniuses, I will bet they live in gated and guarded communities and never come close to the scum they are so willing to protect.

  2. I think that the crime issues in Cayman Islands and other British Islands, now gives the Leaders of these Islands very good reasons to go back to Great Britain and ask for the death penalty, and life sentences be brought back , because the Laws that are in place now just encourages crime . When the criminal knows that he won’t spend the rest of his life in prison or be killed , then becoming more hardened criminal in prison .

    Then the Leaders of the Islands should give Great Britain the options to bring back the Laws , or send special Law enforcement to clean up crime and control it .

    But it’s like what Mr. Linton said in his comment , they are living in gated community and don’t have to worry about the scum criminals.

    • Ron
      Wouldn’t it be funny if they built halfway houses for soon to be released murderers and rapists next to the homes of these splendid human rights people?

      I somehow suspect they would soon stop worrying about the “rights” of this scum and would worry more about their own safety.
      Of course it wouldn’t be right to endanger their valuable lives.

      Bunch of smug, sanctimonious ?#%!*%@

  3. Then the Leaders of the Islands should give Great Britain the options to bring back the Laws , or send special Law enforcement to clean up crime and control it

    Forget the first option….you either play by the rules set…or set your agenda for independence…then you can make your own laws, have your death penalty and execute them any way you wish…..and history and case studies prove that the death penalty has never proven to be any significant detterent to dangerous, determined criminals.

    The problem in Cayman is that people want to eat their cake and have it too.

    They want their police force to drive around in their nice shiny cars…with all their impressive-looking gear, including some very dangerous-looking firearms but not get their hands dirty.

    That would be admitting to the world that…’oops. we do actually have a growing, dangerous crime problem here in our beautiful islands, you know !’….and that might be bad for our international reputation.

    Well…news for them….the reputation is already out there.

    The second option is more realistic BUT there is one problem with that.

    You already have a 400-plus police force which is not being used effectively to combat the problem…for aforementioned reasons….and, to compound the problem, the local political clique, because they do not have direct control over this police force, are not above using the crime wave to their own advantage in their attempt to wrest control of the police from the ruling power…a la the resignation of the last CoP, Mr. David Baines.

    Have you heard ANY of Cayman’s elected politicians speak out and hold their constituents accountable for any of the crimes that is being committed by SOME of them…or their family members ?

    No…they blame and point fingers at the police…as if the police are the cause of crime.

    Yes, the Governor could appeal to the the ruling power to send in special police from Great Britain to address this issue but what happens when the stern methods used by these police to combat and control dangerous crime and criminals are used to bring these criminals under control ?

    Stop-and-search procedures…targeted area sweeps, getting warrants to search premises of dangerous suspects…..armed police foot patrols in the most dangerous spots….road blocks and vehicle searches at particular times…and ultimately, putting some them down when caught red-handed in committing deadly acts with a firearm.

    I’m sorry folks but this is how the problem is handled by British police that would be called in to deal with this.

    And please, recognise that all of this IS human-rights compliant.

    Just today, police shot a suspect to death in Yorkshire, the North-east of Britain and information is still unfolding as to the exact circumstances surrounding the incident but it is almost a guarantee that this was a dangerous suspect who posed an immediate threat to the public…police in Great Britain do not go around just killing people for the fun of it.

    There is no gentle way to handle dangerous and murderous criminals and this seems to be something that the Cayman Islands has yet to recognise and acknowledge.

  4. Ricardo I agree very much with your comment, but thinks that the crime issues in Cayman pretty much comes down with what you said in another comment , that a citizens group needs to be formed that would speak to Government and Police with one powerful voice .
    Let’s see which Politians or Leader of GOVERNMENT that would address the issues and how they how they would .

    But I think that it’s time that someone needs to address the crime issue.

  5. Ron….look up the BBC and other media sources on the police shooting in Huddersfield today..or yesterday…and see how situations involving suspects caught in possession of illegal firearms in Britain are handled.

    You will see that this was a targeted, intelligence-led operation aimed at a gang of individuals, one of whom had a history of violent criminal behaviour…and was reported to be in possession of a gun.

    This is the individual that was shot and killed but details are still sketchy’

    Sounds familiar to any similar individuals in Cayman ?

    I completely stand by my first suggestion…the entire community should take responsibility for this problem and address it as one powerful (your words) voice..a voice that HAS to be heard.

    It might be one way of saving more lives…and certainly saving the lives of some of these gun-totting gangsters.

    If specialist British firearms police needs to be called in to deal with it…some of them will certainly end up as this young man did.

    It will also mean that the Cayman Islands cannot handle its own affairs and that opens another can of worms entirely.

    Lets see if any of these candidates in this up-coming election makes this crime issue…especially the firearms, shootings and murders, a major campaign issue…it will be highly irresponsible of them if they don’t….and I’m not speaking of casting blame to get votes.

    I’m speaking of articulating and bringing attention to the problem…and suggesting workable solutions.