The Cayman Islands Court of Appeal dismissed an application by Michelle Bouchard to appeal convictions for theft of more than $2.23 million, noting that the appeal was filed one year and 321 days out of time.
The appeal court heard submissions from attorney Anthony Akiwumi on behalf of Bouchard, who was convicted by a Grand Court jury and sentenced in April 2016 to 12 years’ imprisonment for offences that included theft and transferring criminal property. In November 2016, she appealed that sentence and it was reduced to 10 years.
On Tuesday, court president Sir John Goldring asked Akiwumi if Bouchard was saying that when she appealed only against sentence, she was not properly advised. Appeals against conviction must be filed within 14 days.
Akiwumi submitted that trial judge Paul Worsley was wrong to have allowed evidence to go to the jury that should have been inadmissible.
Bouchard’s victim was an elderly Australian, James Bruce Handford, who had retired to Cayman. A relationship developed between them in 2010 when she began working for him and moved into his Seven Mile Beach condominium.
In 2012, his daughter received information from his bank and came to Cayman. After she and her father went through some bank documents, Handford made a report to police that Bouchard had stolen large amounts of money from accounts he and Bouchard held jointly.
Officers prepared a statement and read it to him. He signed it. He was 83 at the time. Trial was delayed for a number of reasons. By the time of trial, he was 87 and unable to give evidence because of the dementia from which he suffered.
Justice Worsley commented during the trial that the interview ought to have been videotaped.
The Evidence Law provides for situations in which a person’s statement may be used in evidence when, by reason of mental fitness, the person who made the statement is not fit to attend court as a witness.
In this case, the court heard from the victim’s physician and from a resident psychologist who found that the victim’s problem-solving skills were well below what would have been expected of someone of ordinary cognitive competence.
The court found that Justice Worsley had given most careful consideration to the matter. His decision to admit the evidence was “entirely beyond criticism” and there was no merit in this proposed ground of appeal. From that decision, it followed that the application to appeal out of time must be dismissed.
In addition to the court president, this appeal was heard by Justices Sir Richard Field and Dennis Morrison. They said that legal aid had been denied, but they were grateful to Akiwumi and junior counsel Lee Halliday-Davis for representing the appellant.
At a hearing in April 2018, Bouchard was ordered to pay $2.23 million in compensation to her victim or his estate.