Four month prison sentence for curfew breach

Police Commissioner Derek Byrne

The first criminal prosecution for breach of the coronavirus curfew saw an individual jailed for four months this morning.

Commissioner of Police Derek Byrne made the announcement Friday afternoon as he confirmed the extension of the hard curfew for two more weeks, starting tonight.

He said the courts had sent a “clear message” to the community that breach of curfew would not be tolerated.

He said the magistrate had indicated that it was a “knowing breach of curfew” and there was no lack of understanding or lack of awareness on the part of the defendant, who was not identified.

The commissioner said the individual, who plead guilty, had also been charged for other offences but the four-month sentence applies purely to the breach of curfew.

Outlining the details of the case, he said, “The magistrate stated that public order, together with the more important public health consideration, made the offending conduct extremely serious and that the court must adopt a robust view of the breach.

“The magistrate stated it was a deliberate breach of the curfew, there was no misunderstanding, no lack of awareness, no emergency circumstances.”

He added that the magistrate had determined there was ‘high culpability’ because the defendant had caused serious risk of harm by thoughtlessly breaching the curfew.

“The court referred to statements made by the governor and the premier that emphasised the serious nature of this public health emergency and the efforts that are being undertaken to suppress the transmission of the COVID-19 virus,” Byrne added.

He said, “I believe the court has sent out a very strong message this morning to the community, confirming that a breach of curfew is a serious criminal offence that will be dealt with robustly.”

Byrne said said 21 more files had been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions to be considered for legal ruling.

The commissioner also announced the extension of the hard curfew, which will remain in place overnight from 7pm to 5am for the next 14 days. It will also apply Sundays and work in tandem with a soft curfew on weekdays.

Premier Alden McLaughlin also announced a new system so the police could issue tickets for on-the-spot fines for people who breach curfew. He said this would negate the need to take people to court in most cases, unless they chose to dispute the ticket.

Meanwhile, the Cayman Islands recorded one additional positive case of coronavirus, taking the total number of positives to 29 out of 273 people tested.

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