EDITORIAL – Two Compass stories that readers may find difficult to believe

Sometimes even we have difficulty believing some of the stories we print in this newspaper (no wisecracks, please; we’ve already heard all those jokes). Two prime examples appeared last week:

First, ponder the tale of a simple traffic violation that required 22 court appearances over three years before the charge was finally dismissed. In vacating the case, here’s what Magistrate Angelyn Hernandez had to say:

“I can only apologize on behalf of the system for this great inconvenience that has happened in your life for the past three years … I cannot begin to express the unsatisfactory manner in which this has been handled. I have no words. This case is dismissed.”

Well, Ms. Hernandez, even we who are in the “word business” are having difficulty finding the exact ones to describe our thoughts about the absurdity of 22 court appearances arising out of one traffic violation. So we’ll be blessedly brief and monosyllabic: “Nuts!”

Here’s the background:

In 2013, Shawn Abshire Bodden, a sergeant with the Marine Unit of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, was stopped – by a fellow police officer – while he was in his personal vehicle on his way to the marine base to repair a marine unit vessel.

He was convicted, fined and disqualified from driving in 2015 after being found guilty of driving without insurance – even though he was covered by a departmental insurance policy that covers an officer who is conducting police business. That naturally, had been his defense … but nobody could seem to locate the appropriate paperwork for three years, during which time Mr. Bodden made (according to an informal count by the Compass) some 22 court appearances.

Mr. Bodden maintained that, in fact, he was insured by a government policy that covered an officer on police business, but he could not access the document because it resided on his office computer – off-limits to him because he was suspended. Catch 22. Three years later, he was proven correct.

The second story revealed that nearly a year after police began cracking down on illegal motorbike riders, arresting marauders and confiscating their motorbikes, only two convictions have been recorded (and those defendants made it simple: They pleaded guilty.)

So, nearly a year after the so-called crackdown took place, here’s where we are: Two convictions, many of the impounded motorbikes have been returned, and the mayhem, including the “wheelies” and other death-defying stunts, continue apace.

Again, we will be monosyllabic: Why?

When Police Commissioner Derek Byrne declared war last December on these illegal dirt bikes and their riders, he said this: Cayman had had “enough of the nuisance and danger of these illegal bikes. Those who flaunt the law and evade police only make matters worse for themselves and can expect to be arrested.”

… So much for all that.

One Compass editor (half-blind from a lifetime of chasing errant commas and misplaced semicolons) nevertheless had no trouble spotting three illegal motorbikes on one evening’s short commute home. The motorbikes were slaloming dangerously in and out of traffic with no license plates, or lights, in sight. Another staffer passed a “convoy” of a half-dozen hot dogging motorbikes this past Sunday.

The good-news line from police is they believe the “crackdown” is working, citing as evidence that they are receiving fewer complaints.

“Fewer complaints” seems to us to be pretty flimsy evidence of success, but even if statistically that is true, might they be receiving fewer complaints simply because people are tired of complaining when they witness with their own eyes that nothing is being done?

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  1. On the first story, I am surprised Magistrate Hernandez has not asked the RCIPS hierarchy for an explanation or referred the matter for investigation regarding obstruction of justice. Commissioner Byrne has been very quiet on this one – perhaps the Compass dare ask why?

    On the second, of course complaints have gone down – people have given up complaining because there is little being done. Bikes abandoned, rider runs off, no registered owner….. no wonder the cops struggle to get offenders to court. Yet, still, we allow these bikes to be brought to the islands – and they don’t come in via luggage…. ban importation or tighten up the rules, Mr Customs Man Clifford.