“Let the punishment fit the crime.”
– W.S. Gilbert, “The Mikado”
Quick quiz: In terms of threats to the peace and public safety, which is more serious:
A) Two-wheeled motorbikers popping wheelies, speeding, ignoring lanes of traffic and actually refusing to stop following a lawful order to do so by a constable, or;
B) An otherwise law-abiding motorist who fails to install an updated license plate on his car?
Common sense would require an answer of A, of course. Anyone answering B might consider a career in government – which, if proposed legislation is any indication, apparently considers the crimes of license plate scofflaws to be far worse than those of marauding motorbikers – four times worse, to be exact.
A proposal to slap motorists with a $10,000 fine for not displaying electronic license plates and tags on their vehicle is one of several proposed changes lawmakers will consider as part of The Traffic (Amendment) Bill, 2018 when they meet later this month.
The very same bill proposes to impose, by comparison, a paltry $2,500 penalty for refusing to stop a motorcycle or moped upon the orders of a constable – illegal, dangerous and chronic behavior that police have consistently struggled to control, and which poses a significant threat to public safety and public order. This is only the most recent example of Cayman’s irrational and disjointed system of punishments that are disproportionate to the crimes they are intended to correct and control.
It is a twisted calculus that would suggest that marauding motorbikers, who have been terrorizing Cayman despite a multi-year “crackdown,” warrant a fraction of the penalty as motorists whose only crime was failure to wait in an interminable line at the Department of Vehicle and Drivers’ Licensing to obtain a license plate that serves no discernible purpose.
Perhaps it is the same “alternative math” that leads to such enigmatic criminal sentences as a $1,000 “payment” required of a departing tourist who inadvertently brought a bag containing a stray bullet (a bullet missed by U.S. security screens).
It is difficult to understand the public purpose that would be served by levying exorbitant fines for failing to adopt the new licensing scheme – the implementation of which has been fraught with poor communication and delays.
It is worth repeating that Cayman never has been offered a reasonable explanation for the unreasonable expenditure of $1.5 million (at least) to implement the electronic tags.
Officials say that when fully implemented, police and DVDL officials will be able to use hand-held devices to scan the tags and determine whether a vehicle’s licensing and registration is up-to-date – a task easily accomplished up to this point by anyone with eyes to see.
When pitching the proposal, then-Planning Minister Kurt Tibbetts suggested the new plates would allow police to monitor vehicles and issue tickets automatically.
Frankly, we can conceive of no reasonable justification for such intrusive Orwellian tactics. From the outset we have been of the position that the electronic tags were a “solution” in search of a problem.