No conviction recorded in Adam assault trial

The trial of former government minister Mike Adam concluded Tuesday with Magistrate Grace Donalds finding there was a case to be made for common assault, but electing not to record a conviction.

Mr. Adam, a former MLA for George Town and former minister for community affairs and housing, was charged with assault following a heated altercation with a neighbor in West Bay. The complainant alleged that Mr. Adam had raised his fist and made contact with the neighbor’s cheek following an argument.

The incident occurred on June 17, 2017, and the trial began in March this year. The proceedings were adjourned twice; once because of a conflict in the schedules of the attorneys and the magistrate, and again because a witness was ill and unable to testify in front of the court. That witness, Lissa Adam, Mr. Adam’s wife, testified Tuesday morning. Mrs. Adam said she had witnessed the altercation between the complainant and the defendant.

The dispute began over boundary markings dividing their properties and escalated into a heated debate. Mrs. Adam testified that the complainant asked Mr. Adam if he was senile at one point in the argument, and she said that her husband approached the neighbor with a raised fist.

Mrs. Adam said she did not see any contact between the two men, adding that rather than retreating, it seemed like the complainant was advancing on Mr. Adam.

“I don’t know what you do,” Mrs. Adam said. “Run in the house and lock the door?”

Crown counsel Kenneth Ferguson said in his closing argument that it was a very unfortunate incident and that it was clear the offense was “a very minor charge on the spectrum of charges.” Later, Mr. Ferguson noted that the witnesses differed on whether there was contact between the complainant and defendant, and said, “Common assault can be committed without the touching of bodies.”

Defense attorney Waide DaCosta noted that the incident was avoidable and stemmed from a “petty” interpretation of a boundary marker that was allegedly in the wrong place by “an inch or two.”

“Words can also be an assault,” said Mr. DaCosta of the root of the altercation. “[The complainant] was always the aggressor. He was an aggressor with the boundaries.”

After listening to the witness and both attorneys, Magistrate Donalds said that she was convinced that a case for common assault had been made. She said that she was prepared to invoke Section 41 of the Cayman Islands Penal Code in withholding conviction for the defendant.

“Your clients were very consistent in their evidence, but it’s a common assault,” the magistrate said to Mr. DaCosta. “Most definitely, it was the complainant who provoked this incident.”

Section 41 of the Penal Code lays out the circumstances in which a magistrate may choose to not record a conviction. It states, in part: “Where, in a trial, a court thinks that the charge is proved, but is of the opinion that, having regard to the character, antecedents, age, health or mental condition of the accused, or to the trivial nature of the offence or to the extenuating circumstances in which the offence was committed, it is inexpedient to inflict any punishment, the court may, without proceeding to conviction, make an order … [to discharge] the accused absolutely.”