EDITORIAL – ‘Snail bail’ justice: ‘Foots’ and the sugar glider

George Town Police Station

It’s time to update the appointments calendar — again. Police bail for Jimel McLean (linked to the smuggling of a “sugar glider” and other exotic animals) and Ronald “Foots” Kynes (linked to possible “obscene publications”) has been extended for yet another month.

Normally, such administrative details would not warrant mention in these pages. But in both these arrests, “no news” has become the news.

Last week’s extensions marked the fourth time police bail has been extended for Mr. McLean (this time until Oct. 4) and the second extension for Mr. Kynes (this time until Oct. 16). To date, neither has been charged with any wrongdoing. Until a court finds otherwise, both must be considered innocent.

But what can be taking so long? There is little reason to believe that either case is exceptionally complex.

Three months ago, Mr. McLean and a 26-year-old woman were arrested on suspicion of animal smuggling, after a small exotic “sugar glider” was discovered on a Cayman Airways jet. Police and customs officials say the animal escaped the suspects’ possession and a subsequent property search in Cayman revealed several other exotic animals.

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Nearly two months ago, police arrested Mr. Kynes, Cayman Brac’s most notorious artist, for allegedly violating laws forbidding obscene publications, after he refused to remove or move several suggestive sculptures, installed on his property, from public view.

Mr. Kynes does not dispute the fact that he put the statues there. In fact, he has adamantly defended his right to do so. The central question is whether the installation crosses the legal threshold of “obscene.” That question cannot be answered by further police investigation – obscenity is an issue decided by the courts.

Nevertheless, we have two salient questions:

  • Have the matters of Mr. McLean and Mr. Kynes been turned over to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Ms. Cheryll Richards?
  • Are the files on prosecutors’ desks? Inbox? Outbox? Dustbin?

These are only two examples of cases dragging on – and on, ad infinitum – in Cayman. (Will we ever see a rogue motorbiker charged, tried, and then acquitted or convicted?)

Such extended use of pre-charge bail undermines our criminal justice system. It casts a cloud of suspicion while denying suspects the chance to prove their innocence. It delays (or even denies) adjudication and punishment for those found guilty of their crimes.

The use of pre-charge bail has been severely limited by England since it is viewed as an unwarranted restriction on people’s rights. There, too, high profile cases had been dragging on without charge or adjudication. Suspects on police bail were forced to check in with police at predetermined times, or face arrest. They sometimes had to relinquish their passport, avoid certain people or places or meet other conditions set by police. New policing rules adopted in England and Wales this spring allow the imposition of police bail for no more than 28 days. By that time, a suspect must either be formally charged or released from bail.

In Cayman, as weeks and months pass without formal charges, one wonders whether cases are being seriously investigated or ever will be prosecuted. Multiple police commissioners (not to mention individual RCIPS officers) have complained bitterly (albeit privately) about cases languishing in the DPP’s office.

Why are charges in so many cases so slow in coming? Is it because the department is woefully understaffed? Or are the cases forwarded by law enforcement incomplete or inadequate and, therefore, not ready to move forward? Or are certain cases being “slow-walked” or “no walked” for other inexplicable reasons?

Frankly, we don’t know, but we do know that the public, and law enforcement officials, deserve far more transparency out of the DPP’s office, which is, after all, a critical cog in the Cayman justice system.

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  1. I believe that the files are in the dustbin of the Prosecutor Office . But do we see how Laws can be rewritten and cause all kinds of problems .
    The Police in Mother Country and Wales cannot allow bail for more than 28 days . But in Cayman Islands the Police has the powers to extend bail indefinitely , because of the manipulation of the Mother Country Laws .
    And the Cayman Islands Government don’t keep up with present Laws of England , because the old suits better and fits in better in the present game .

    I think that this is the reason why there’s so much corruption going on in the Islands of the Caribbean today .

  2. I do wonder if the real problem here is with the DPP or with RCIPS themselves.

    There was a case 10 years ago where a Canadian citizen was arrested and held on police or pre-charge bail pending ‘further investigations’ for around a year. If I remember the details correctly he’d quit his job here and was arrested as he was leaving the islands on the strength of allegations of theft from his former employer. In simple terms after the initial investigation, and the confiscation of his passport, the paperwork seemed to have sat on an RCIPS desk somewhere collecting dust while the poor man was effectively imprisoned on Grand Cayman. Eventually, his lawyers filed a writ of habeas corpus but the day that was due to be heard charges were finally filed against him.

    But whatever the issues at RCIPS the DPP is certainly not blameless. In addition to the two cases cited here we also have the on-going ‘investigation’ into the conduct of Operation Tempura’s former SIO, Martin Bridger. That kicked off in April 2016 and the file was apparently handed over to the DPP almost a year ago but Mr Bridger is still waiting for a decision.

    At the end of the day these delays, whoever is causing them, are a blatant breach of the individual’s rights under ECHR Article 6, which entitle them to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law. In fact violations of the ‘reasonable time’ requirement seem to be one of the most common issues raised under this section of ECHR and are almost certainly the main reason for the changes in procedure adopted by the UK.