Brac artist sues government over ‘obscenity’ arrest

Filing alleges malice in actions by police and prosecution

Cayman Brac artist Ronald ‘Foots’ Kynes has filed suit against members of the Cayman Islands government, alleging malicious prosecution for his 2017 arrest and subsequent trial in relation to his art.

Kynes was charged with obscene publication in October 2017 over a series of sculptures, including depictions of same-sex intimacy and religious iconography, that were displayed on his property in South Side, Cayman Brac. The artist was found not guilty in July 2018 by Magistrate Kirsty-Ann Gunn.

Kynes has been vocal about his intention to sue government, and to seek millions of dollars in damages, since his arrest in July 2017. He alleges that the actions taken by local authorities in response to his art constituted harassment and infringed on his right to freedom of expression. 

The writ filed this week lists the Cayman Islands attorney general, commissioner of police, and director of public prosecutions.

Kynes further alleges impunity regarding harassment and repeated cases of vandalism against his art dating back to 2009, when one of his sculptures was set on fire.

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“It is also understood that there was no investigation, arrest or recording of the complaint to the police. There was also no arrest or duly completed investigation of any of the previous incidents,” the writ states, regarding the 2009 fire.

In relation to the 2018 trial, the writ states that both RCIPS officers and church members falsely interpreted his sculptures as “related to voodoo, obeah or devil worshiping”. Following Kynes’s arrest, the sculptures in question were smashed and vandalised.

“The evidence on which the Plaintiff was charged and prosecuted came exclusively from the biased collected accounts or assertions of obscenity by a limited section of the public which was reported to RCIPS and its officers,” the writ states.

Kynes contends that none of his art is obscene in nature or depicts sexual acts.

“None displayed any obscenity, nor did they impugn the morals of society by reference to public standard of the Cayman Islands community as a whole which put on … public national carnivals each year which display participants simulating sexual acts,” the writ states.

The artist’s arrest without “reasonable and probable cause” infringed on his constitutional rights to freedom of expression, peaceful enjoyment of property and non-discrimination, the filing further states.

“The Claimant suffered loss and damage, including loss of liberty as set out above, distress and reputational damage of a prosecution lasting from 18th July 2017 to 17th June 2018,” the writ reads.

“The Claimant was required to attend court on several occasions where he was the subject of public attention, contempt, and ridicule. He was thereby gravely humiliated. He was arrested and samples taken from him. His name and reputation … is felt to have been tarnished.”

The actions of the defendants are described as “arbitrary, oppressive and unconstitutional”.

Each defendant will have 28 days to respond to the writ from the time of receipt.

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  1. Without wishing to get into the merits or otherwise of this matter you would have thought the complainant or his lawyer would have considered that the laws here are not US based. The phrase ‘reasonable and probable cause’ is of no consequence in Cayman and a simple search of The Police Law would show what elements need to be satisfied.

    Section 60. A police officer may, without an order from a Justice of the Peace and without a warrant, arrest any person –
    (a) whom he suspects on reasonable grounds of having committed or to be about to commit an arrestable offence;

    Lazy or incompetent advice or poor research which will likely mean a re-draft being required