After 15 hearings in a case that spanned nearly five years, senior immigration officer Garfield (Gary) Wong was fined $500 and his driver’s license was suspended for two months on Wednesday for careless driving and leaving the scene of an accident.
The incident leading to the charges occurred in the early hours of Dec. 27, 2013, after his truck was in a collision with a car on Shamrock Road.
Mr. Wong was also ordered to pay $1,500 toward the costs incurred by the prosecution to call an expert witness during the trial. Crown counsel Scott Wainwright said his office spent $12,519 on an expert witness in relation to the charge of driving under the influence of alcohol against Mr. Wong.
After the nearly five-year trial in Summary Court, Mr. Wong’s legal matter has not concluded. His attorney, Dennis Brady, has said that he has filed appeals against his client’s convictions. The Crown has also filed an appeal against the court’s decision to acquit Mr. Wong of driving under the influence of alcohol.
After Magistrate Grace Donalds handed down her sentence, Mr. Wong asked for the judge to stay Mr. Wong’s license suspension pending the appeal.
Mr. Wainwright immediately objected to this, saying that the Criminal Procedure Code explicitly states that Summary Court decisions should not be suspended just because they are being appealed.
Magistrate Donalds sided with Mr. Wainwright, saying that Mr. Wong’s license will be suspended effective 8 p.m. Wednesday – giving Mr. Wong a chance to drive home from court.
Mr. Wong was arrested in December 2013 in relation to the offenses. At his trial, he said he had been driving west toward his home when his cellphone fell from the seat to the floor of his truck. He said he checked his rear-view mirror and the road ahead, did not see anything, and then bent down to pick up the phone, taking his eyes off the road in the process.
Mr. Wong told the court at the time that as he retrieved his phone, he felt a bump and heard a thump, but thought he had hit a pothole and carried on driving.
When she delivered her verdict in August, Magistrate Donalds said that Mr. Wong had shown a lack of critical judgment and had failed to conform to the standards of a reasonable and prudent driver.
Mr. Wong was also charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, but was found not guilty of that charge.
According to evidence produced at the trial, a breathalyzer test given to Mr. Wong at the Bodden Town Police Station after the accident produced a reading of .184. The legal limit in Cayman is .100.
However, the arresting officer said he could not confirm whether he was in the room for the test. Magistrate Donalds said during her verdict delivery that the inability to unequivocally confirm the officer’s presence raised a doubt. It appeared that there may not have been strict compliance with the law, so the breathalyzer certificate should not have been admitted into evidence.
The Traffic Law states that the constable operating an alcohol-in-breath measuring device shall do so in the presence of another constable and the result of the breath test is to be signed by him and “countersigned by the constable in whose presence it was made ….”
Without evidence of the alcohol-in-blood level, the magistrate found Mr. Wong not guilty of this charge and acquitted him.