Court will not accept ‘vigilante behavior’

The courthouse in downtown George Town. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

An East End man charged in connection with the recent vandalism of a police officer’s personal vehicle has received bail over the objections of a Cayman Islands Summary Court magistrate.

“I’m surprised he was given bail,” Magistrate Valdis Foldats said. “Had it been me, quite frankly, I’d say he wouldn’t have received bail. This court would not countenance some sort of vigilante behavior.”

Elvert McFarlane, 30, appeared in court Tuesday, charged with damage to property and “causing harassment, alarm and distress.” The allegations relate to what police said was “criminal damage” of a police constable’s personal car.

The constable was the initial responder to a quadruple-fatal two-car accident on May 2, and police believe he was retaliated against by a family member of one of the crash victims who blamed the officer for “chasing” a Honda Accord involved in the wreck.

Many times in the past week police commanders have denied there was any pursuit, but family members of an 11-year-old boy who was riding in the Honda have disputed the police statements. McFarlane is the child’s uncle.

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In Summary Court, Magistrate Foldats said he did not understand why police had granted bail for the suspect, but that the bench had no legal power to revoke police bail. Mr. Foldats said his comments were not meant to indicate the defendant was guilty of anything, only that the matter before the court was much more serious than the typical property damage incident.

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Crown Counsel Neil Kumar asked for “certain conditions” to be placed on McFarlane’s release, including that he would have to report to the Bodden Town Police Station three times a week and that he would be prohibited from coming within 100 yards of the officer’s residence.

“There is concern about the risk of further contact with the [officer] in this case,” Mr. Kumar said. “The allegation of itself is very serious.”

Although McFarlane did not have an attorney present during the Tuesday court appearance, veteran defense attorney John Furniss stepped in to assist the court and speak on McFarlane’s behalf.

Mr. Furniss said restrictions against the defendant contacting the police officer or coming within his home property could not be disputed. However, he sought to deny the Crown’s request that a curfew be imposed on McFarlaneat night, saying prosecutors had no additional evidence to show that was warranted. Magistrate Foldats agreed with Mr. Furniss and denied the curfew request.

The court set the matter for another hearing on May 16 and advised McFarlane to apply for legal aid in order to hire an attorney.

The May 2 crash on Austin Conolly Drive killed three U.K. tourists and a 22-year-old Jamaican man. It also injured the 11-year-old boy, who was released from hospital last week, and a 26-year-old man who is still hospitalized. The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service said the officer’s private vehicle was vandalized outside his home on the night of May 3, about 24 hours after the crash.

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