The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service investigated at least eight cases between December 2016 and April 2017 where no charges subsequently were brought against a motorbike operator following a driver arrest and/or the seizure of a vehicle.
The arrests and bike seizures came during a police crackdown on non-street legal bikes or illegally and dangerously operated motorbikes. During the period, police investigated a total of 17 such incidents. Nine of the cases were presented for prosecution and were sent to the Traffic Court. The eight other matters were not sent to prosecutors for a formal review due to police supervisors’ decisions.
The main difficulty in cases where no charges were brought, according to records obtained through a Cayman Compass Freedom of Information request, is that police could not formally identify the motorbike driver.
The Cayman Compass reviewed the specific details of each investigation and found that in some cases, no one came forward to claim the seized vehicle, which remained in police evidential custody. In other investigations, the vehicle owner demanded to receive it back from police impound and if there was no proof of that person using the motorbike illegally, it was returned.
“The RCIPS has no legal basis on which to continue to detain motorbikes once the required documents are presented and verified,” said Chief Inspector Raymond Christian, who responded to the Compass open records request.
The specific cases reviewed included the following incidents:
April 29, 2017 – Around 7 p.m., police received a complaint about a noisy motorbike being driven around Windsor Park. Officers responded and encountered a dirt bike driving toward their police car with no lights on. When the officers tried to stop the driver, police said the dirt biker “tried to run over one of the officers in the roadway.”
The rider jumped off the bike and ran away, leaving the dirt bike behind. He was never found. Police seized the dirt bike and left it at the police station. Neither the bike rider nor the vehicle’s owner were ever identified.
March 4, 2017 – The RCIPS helicopter noted a Suzuki motorcycle speeding toward George Town from West Bay and asked for a patrol unit to check it. No unit was immediately available, so the helicopter tracked the bike to Gresscott Lane and officers later responded to the location, identifying the man as the motorcycle driver.
The Suzuki was not registered and the man said he did not have insurance or a driver’s license on him. Officers arrested the man and his motorcycle was kept at the George Town Police Station. Police said the man later provided verified documentation for the bike and the vehicle was released to him.
Feb. 25, 2017 – Around 5 p.m., police patrolling the Fairbanks area of George Town saw two dirt bikes stopped on Fern Circle where the riders were speaking with each other. When officers approached, one of the riders drove off and was not identified. The other man who stayed behind did not have registration plates for the vehicle in his possession.
After police seized the bike, the man showed up at the George Town Police Station with a document he said was the title for the bike, but refused to give a copy of it to police for investigation. He was told he could not get the motorbike back because he did not have insurance or ownership documentation.
“The investigating officer did not proceed with any charges since [the man] was not seen riding the bike,” Mr. Christian said. The other driver who rode off was never located.
Feb. 16, 2017 – The RCIPS helicopter spotted another motorcyclist driving around Poindexter Road in Prospect without registration plates displayed. The bike rider, who saw the helicopter following him around, stopped and waited for police to arrive because “he assumed police were on their way.”
The bike rider could not prove he owned the vehicle, or that he had insurance or a license to operate the vehicle, police said. The bike was removed to the police station and later on the same day, the rider went to the George Town Police Station and provided documentation proving ownership of the vehicle and insurance. However, the vehicle was not properly registered for road use, police said.
Later in the month, the man was warned by a police inspector not to operate the vehicle until it passed inspection. The man was allowed to take the motorbike back from police lock-up, load it into a truck and haul it away from the police station, officers said. No charges were filed in the incident per officers’ discretion.
Jan. 11, 2017 – A report of motorbike riders causing a nuisance in West Bay along Bonaventure Road was made and police responded around 5:30 p.m. Officers observed a man “pulling wheelies” on a Honda four-wheeler, all-terrain vehicle with three other men watching from the roadside. The ATV was not licensed for street use.
Police informed the operator that he was under arrest and he ran away, jumping a chain-link fence and disappearing from officers’ sight. One of the three bystanders told police he owned the ATV, but none of the men provided the identity of the driver to the RCIPS. The owner of the bike was warned for prosecution [ticketed] for permitting the use of an unregistered vehicle.
According to Chief Inspector Christian, legal advice was sought from the Crown regarding this incident. Crown prosecutors advised there was “insufficient evidence” to proceed to charges “due to the fact that the driver of the vehicle could not be identified.” The police traffic unit closed the file and the ATV was returned to its owner.
Dec. 27, 2016 – A Zongshen motorcycle was seen driving toward Batabano in West Bay with no registration plates displayed. The motorbike operator eventually stopped and showed police a license plate for the vehicle that he was carrying. He did not have his driver’s license, insurance or registration documents on him. The rider was arrested on suspicion of dangerous driving and driving without insurance. He was later released on police bail.
On Jan. 4, the man appeared at the police station and produced license and insurance documents that showed the vehicle was “up-to-date” at the time he was stopped. The driver received his motorcycle back and the arrest was reviewed. The inspector who reviewed the case noted the driver did not appear to have exceeded the speed limit, had not ignored road signs or driven dangerously, and decided not to proceed with charges.
March 25, 2017 – A motorbike driver in Bodden Town sped off after noticing police were approaching him and abandoned his bike in the bushes near Hardy Way. The motorbike’s vehicle identification number had been cut from the bike’s chassis, police said. The bike was taken to storage, but police could not identify its driver.