Rapist loses fight to lift sexual harm prevention order

The Court of Appeal has upheld a sexual harm prevention order imposed on a convicted rapist and burglar.

Ronnie Rodney Ebanks is currently serving a six-year prison sentence after being convicted of gross indecency in December 2017. At the time of the sentencing, the judge also imposed a seven-year sexual harm prevention order on Ebanks. Ebanks was the first person to have such an order imposed on him.

Ebanks was sentenced in relation to an incident that occurred on 13 Feb. 2017, when he broke into a bedroom of a West Bay Road condo. With his shirt pulled over his head, Ebanks performed lewd acts on himself in the presence of the victim, a tourist who was visiting Cayman with her family.

On Friday, Ebanks’ lawyer, Laurence Aiolfi, claimed the imposition of the sexual harm prevention order directly contravened Ebanks’ human rights and was also tantamount to an undue penalty.

Aiolfi argued that at the time when Ebanks committed the crime, 13 Feb. 2017, the court did not have the power to impose sexual harm prevention orders. Aiolfi pointed the appeal court to Section 8(1) of the Cayman Islands Constitution Order 2009 Bill of Rights.

That section, titled ‘No punishment without law’, states, “No one shall be held guilty of any criminal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence under national or international law at the time when it was committed; nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the criminal offence was committed.”

The ability to impose sexual harm prevention orders did not come into effect until May 2017, three months after the offence occurred. However, in August 2017, the law was amended to include existing crimes. As a result, when Ebanks was sentenced in December 2017, the judge drew on the powers to impose the order retroactively.

The order prohibits the offender from doing anything that is described in the document.

The provisions for Ebanks include that he is not allowed to go to any residence or premises between 7pm and 6am without an invitation from the resident or a lawful reason for being there. During the same hours, he cannot loiter around any such property.

Additionally, Ebanks has to notify the police commissioner in writing, and at least three days in advance, if he will be leaving Cayman for at least 14 days and include details of locations and accommodations.

He must also notify the police commissioner in writing in advance of any changes to, or applications for, any identity documents.

Aiolfi argued that, firstly, the order was an excessive penalty on Ebanks, and, secondly, even though there were retroactive clauses, it was not fitting in Ebanks’ case. He said that, ultimately, the sentence was a direct breach of Ebanks’ human rights under the no punishment without law provision.

“We say that the subsequent restriction of Mr. Ebanks’ freedom and personal liberties by the [sexual harm prevention] order serves as a penalty,” said Aiolfi. “Therefore, the order ought to be construed in light of Section 8 of the Bill of Rights, and when one does, we say it directly breaches Mr. Ebanks’ rights.”

The judges disagreed with Aiolfi. When offering their reasons for declining the appeal, they pointed to Ebanks’ history.

In 2009, he was released from prison after serving a sentence for rape. Within weeks of his release, he committed a burglary with the intention to commit rape for which he was given a 10-year sentence. Then in 2016, after having served two-thirds of the sentence, he was released on licence. Within months of being released, he committed an act of gross indecency, for which he is currently serving a six-year sentence.

The sexual harm prevention order, which lasts for seven years, will commence upon his release date.

“It [the sexual harm prevention order] was wholly protective in light of what it was designed to achieve.” said the judges. “We therefore see it as highly appropriate that it be implemented, despite the law and its retrospective powers not being in force at the time of the commission of the offence.”

Crimes Ebanks has been convicted of:

  • Rape
  • Burglary with the intention to commit rape
  • Gross indecency
  • Indecent assault