Wong loses Grand Court appeals

Garfield Wong

A Grand Court judge has ordered that former Deputy Chief Immigration Officer Garfield Wong be retried for a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol and also upheld his conviction of leaving the scene of an accident.

The charges stemmed from a 2013 incident on Shamrock Road, during which Wong’s Dodge Ram truck collided with a BMW. Both vehicles received significant damage, and the BMW was written off.

Wong failed to stop and continued on his way home. He was eventually pulled over by a police officer.

The court had heard that the officer noticed the truck had received significant damage to its front end. According to court documents, photographs of the truck showed that the wheel was almost falling off its axle.

Wong was arrested and taken to Bodden Town Police Station where, according to court documents, the test result showed a reading of .184. The legal limit in Cayman is .100.

He was charged with DUI, careless driving and leaving the scene of an accident.

He denied the charges but was convicted of careless driving and leaving the scene of an accident following a Summary Court trial in front of Magistrate Grace Donalds. The magistrate acquitted Wong of the DUI charge.

In March, the prosecution appealed the acquittal before the Grand Court.

The prosecution argued that the magistrate was wrong to have acquitted Wong of DUI.

According to Donalds’ judgement, she could not be sure whether the test was carried out in strict adherence of the Traffic Law (2011 Revision).

Section 85(6) of that law states, “The constable operating an alcohol-in-breath measuring device shall do so in the presence of another constable.”

When arriving at her decision, Donalds ruled that she could not be sure that more than one officer was in the room at the time the alcohol-breath test was done, and therefore decided that it had not met the requirement of the law and chose not to rely on it as evidence.

Because she did not rely on the test, there was no other way to tell whether Wong was over the legal limit. Thus, she returned a verdict of not guilty.

During the appeal, Wong’s lawyers argued that the judge was right to have dealt with the charge in the manner that she did and urged Acting Justice Marlene Carter not to overturn the ruling.

Carter found in favour of the prosecution and ordered a retrial on the DUI charge.

During the appeal hearing, Wong had challenged his two convictions, but the appeal against his conviction of careless driving was withdrawn.

Wong had claimed that he dropped his cellphone on the floor of his vehicle and had reached down to pick it up. He said thought that he had “felt a thud” and assumed he had hit a pothole and did not realise that he had hit another vehicle. His case was that he could not be guilty of leaving the scene of an accident because he had been unaware one had taken place.

Wong’s defence counsel argued that the magistrate had been wrong to conclude that the damage shown in photographs of Wong’s truck had been sustained in the collision with the BMW. His lawyers argued the damage had been caused by a slight decline from the main road leading to his driveway, and stated that there would have been grooves marked into the road from the truck if the damage had been sustained in the collision.

Additionally, Wong’s defence counsel argued that Magistrate Donalds should not have relied on the police officer’s testimony.

Justice Carter disagreed, dismissing the appeal and upholding the conviction.

No trial date has been set for the retrial.

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