20 bills set for final legislative meeting

The final Legislative Assembly meeting of the Progressives-led government’s term in office will consider about 20 pieces of legislation covering issues, including public lands, crime and punishment, financial services and the protection of older residents.

The meeting is set to get under way Wednesday morning.

One area not on the legislative agenda is the pending regulations to the Immigration Law regarding changes to the government’s permanent residence award system. Those regulations need to be dealt with only via the approval of Cabinet members, but Premier Alden McLaughlin has said publicly that the regulations will not be ready for at least a couple of weeks.

In the past two assembly meetings, more than 40 pieces of legislation have been approved by lawmakers, and this week’s meeting could bring that total to more than 60.

Here are some of the proposals lawmakers are considering:

Public lands

A bill seeking to regulate the use of Crown land in the Cayman Islands, including whether and how the land can be used for private profit, will come before the assembly.

The Public Lands Bill, 2017, would create a five-member Public Lands Commission with the power to license and ticket vendors in public areas.

The commission would also be allowed to apply to the Grand Court to settle disputes over public land access, including right-of-way access.

Both the beach vendor issue and the public right-of-way disputes have been controversial over the past year, with the focus mainly on heavily traveled areas along the Seven Mile Beach corridor.

Separate bills dealing with changes to the 1997 Prescription Law and the Registered Land Law will also come before parliament. The Prescription Law changes are expected to give government the power to intervene in disputes over public right-of-way issues.

If Cabinet approves, the Public Lands Commission members can agree to additional regulations under the bill concerning the use of public land.

According to the legislation, those regulations can include “protecting public rights of way over private land” and specifying the “days and hours during which public land is open for public use.”

Financial services

Several bills will deal with various changes to financial services industry-related laws, but two are considered to be of critical importance to the jurisdiction.

The government intends to pass a version of the controversial Legal Practitioners Bill, but it will not propose entirely rewritten legislation.

Financial Services Minister Wayne Panton told the Cayman Compass last week that the same bill proposed during the assembly’s October 2016 session will be brought back for a vote. Mr. Panton said a number of amendments will be proposed during the committee-stage review of the legislation.

The same thing is expected to be done with the current version of the Companies Law, which formalizes an agreement reached last year between Cayman and the British government.

Mr. Panton said extensive behind-the-scenes consultations have been going on with legal industry stakeholders on the attorneys bill, which seeks to modernize the 1969 legislation that governs the practice of law in Cayman. He said many of the changes suggested by stakeholders have been added to the bill. He said the government also tried to include some issues addressed by bill critics who had “not cooperated in the review” of the legislation.

The Companies Law amendments require companies incorporated in the islands to maintain a register of beneficial owners. The register is allowed to be searched by a local authority in response to formal queries from law enforcement or tax agencies from other countries.

Legal changes will also seek to require limited liability companies in the Cayman Islands to establish beneficial ownership registers.

The beneficial ownership register will not be made public in Cayman, according to government ministers.

Police powers

Another raft of bills would give police officers new powers, including the ability to allow certain suspects to avoid court.

Suspects who have admitted to certain crimes may soon be allowed a “caution” under the law, rather than being charged and facing court for their alleged offense. Police cautions, which have been used in the U.K. for decades, constitute a formal warning to an adult offender who has already admitted to the crime. Cayman Islands police have previously advocated for the same powers, but the proposed Cautions (Adults) Bill, 2017, represents the first time the measure is being brought to the Legislative Assembly.

According to the text of the Cayman Islands bill: “Where a suspect has behaved in a manner that amounts to an offence and the suspect has admitted to so behaving, that suspect may be cautioned in accordance with this law, instead of being charged with, or prosecuted for, the offence …”

A caution is not considered a conviction, but it is placed on a person’s record and can be used against them in the event of a separate commission of crime.

Separate changes proposed to the Penal Code would allow the director of Public Prosecutions, acting in concert with the police, to issue a “sexual harm prevention order” relative to a defendant in a sex crimes case. The order would be issued to protect any member of the public, including children, from a suspected sexual predator.

A small change proposed for the Police Law clarifies the powers of the police commissioner in firing officers who have been convicted of a crime. The bill also clarifies the terminated officer’s rights in relation to a successful appeal of the conviction.

Seniors’ protection

The Older Persons’ Bill, 2017, sets out the Cayman Islands’ first attempt to safeguard the rights of its senior citizens.

The legislation would create a Council of Older Persons that would act as a watchdog for seniors. According to the legislation, it seeks to ensure that seniors are able to access and participate in “all aspects of society” as per the Cayman Islands Constitution Order’s 2009 Bill of Rights.

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