Paul Anthony Hume Ebanks did not succeed in getting his convictions or 14-year sentence overturned when he appeared before the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal on Thursday.
Mr. Ebanks had applied to appeal after a Grand Court jury found him guilty in November 2016 on 26 counts of obtaining property by deception. The deception was Mr. Ebanks telling people that, for a fee of between one and three thousand dollars, they could be granted permanent residence or status. He told them there was a bona fide arrangement in place for this, that he worked for government and was in direct contact with the premier and deputy governor. Mr. Ebanks obtained $164,000 between July 2012 and December 2014.
One ground of appeal put forward by attorney Alex Davies on Mr. Ebanks’s behalf was based on the fact that the Crown prosecutor had invited trial judge Michael Wood to require former premier McKeeva Bush to come to court, but Mr. Ebanks’s attorney at the time did not support that request and the judge declined to issue a summons.
Mr. Ebanks’s position at the appeal was that he had wanted Mr. Bush to attend to give evidence at his trial, but his attorney did not act on his instructions.
Court president Sir John Goldring said he and his colleagues – Justice John Martin and Justice Sir Richard Field – found it “incredible” that the defense attorney would have acted contrary to Mr. Ebanks’s instructions.
He also pointed out that, far from assisting Mr. Ebanks, the premier’s evidence would have seriously prejudiced Mr. Ebanks. It seemed clear to the appeal judges that “the safety of the convictions could not conceivably have been affected” by Mr. Bush’s absence.
Other grounds of appeal had to do with Justice Wood’s summing up of the case and his instructions to the jury, the dismissal of a juror after the trial had started, and several procedural points. In summary, Justice Goldring said there was no basis on which to grant permission to appeal against conviction.
As to sentence, Mr. Davies described 14 years as “manifestly excessive.” He pointed out that the maximum sentence for obtaining property by deception is 10 years.
Justice Goldring pointed to Mr. Ebanks’s record of similar previous convictions – twice in 2006 and again in 2009. He had been out of prison less than a year before he began re-offending in 2012.
“In our view it is difficult to conceive of a more serious example of offending of this type,” he said. The judge commented that Mr. Ebanks had known that his victims were desperate and could ill afford the money they were giving him.
“In our opinion, the judge was quite entitled to impose 14 years,” he declared. With 27 offenses, some of the sentences were made to run concurrently and some consecutively to achieve the total. The appeal judges indicated they might have organized the sentences a bit differently, but it didn’t matter and, in their view, there were no grounds to appeal the total sentence.
They did grant an appeal on one point – how much credit Mr. Ebanks should be given for the time he was on bail but required to wear an electronic monitor. His trial attorney had asked for half-credit for 1,099 days. Justice Wood allowed one year and three months, which had the effect of leaving Mr. Ebanks 12 years and nine months to serve.
The court directed Mr. Davies and Crown counsel Toyin Salako to have the time recalculated and see whether the one year three months was appropriate.