The trial of Cayman Marl Road host Sandra Hill encountered delays on Wednesday, as Justice Roger Chapple considered contempt-of-court and breach-of-bail applications made against the defendant.
In February, Hill pleaded not guilty to the charge of using an ICT (information and communications technology) network to abuse, annoy or harass local businessman Matthew Leslie.
Before proceedings over that charge could continue Wednesday, however, Crown prosecutor Darlene Oko requested Hill be held in contempt of court and found in breach of her bail conditions for continued publication of content regarding the Leslie case.
Oko described publications that had been posted on the Cayman Marl Road website and Facebook as recently as half an hour before Wednesday’s hearing began.
“The defendant is attempting to report on her own criminal trial as some sort of objective, third-party reporter,” Oko said.
“What she is doing now is affecting the ability of the complainant to give his evidence. … It needs to stop so that we do have a proper trial. The complainant is due a fair trial.”
While Oko recognised that she could also make an application to take Hill into custody, her main concern was that the publications cease.
Upon considering Oko’s requests, Justice Chapple ordered any links or descriptions of the content in question, in particular a podcast about Leslie originally published in February 2019, be immediately removed for the duration of the trial. Likewise, no material from the trial bundle may be published or reshared for the duration of the case.
Hill’s attorney, Clayton Phuran, said immediate removal of the podcast would not be possible, however, because Hill did not possess the power to remove content from the website that she runs.
“It’s easy to add content but to remove it is another topic,” Phuran said.
While Cayman Marl Road’s domain is registered in the US, Hill said the web server and site administrator are based in another time zone. The site administrator, who Phuran said lives in a Middle Eastern country that cannot be disclosed, would have to remove the content.
“The country in which he operates doesn’t always have the best access to internet,” Hill said, explaining that the administrator was not immediately available to answer her messages.
By the end of proceedings Wednesday, the February 2019 broadcast had been removed from Cayman Marl Road’s Facebook page. Before the post was deleted, it had received 8,900 views and received 513 comments.
Posts on the Cayman Marl Road website published this week about the Leslie case were still available online Wednesday evening.
The court was able to proceed late in the morning with questioning of Leslie, who described the February 2019 podcast as mentally and emotionally damaging.
“It was one of the hardest things to swallow, watching that and hearing what she had to say. You don’t believe that someone would have the audacity to say certain things, and there it is,” he said.
“It puts a target on your back. All you have to do is go online and it’s right there in front of you. It’s hard to explain those things when someone googles your name and they see the word ‘paedophile’, they see the word ‘con artist’.”
Leslie said that whenever Hill posts about him, he is “bombarded by messages from people well into the hours of the night”. A search for Leslie’s name on the Cayman Marl Road Facebook page on Wednesday morning produced more than 20 unique results.
Questioning by Hill’s attorney Phuran delved well into Leslie’s past, reaching as far back as his time spent working for the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service in the late ‘90s.
As cross examination continued, Oko objected several times to the relevance of the questions about Leslie’s history to the ICT harassment charge.
Chapple shut down questions by Phuran about the breakdown of Leslie’s marriage, as well as questions about his time at the RCIPS, contending that neither was relevant to the trial.
The justice also rejected attempts by Phuran to establish the veracity of the claims made by Hill against Leslie, explaining that the charge against her was one of harassment, rather than truthfulness.
Phuran contended that Leslie could not be considered “annoyed” by Hill’s comments, if the comments were credible.
“That is ludicrous,” Chapple said.
“To be called a paedophile during the course of a webcast, whether true or not, is guaranteed to annoy.”
At the end of Wednesday’s proceedings, Chapple told Phuran that he would need to be convinced that the line of questioning was relevant or permissible, or it would not be allowed to continue the next day.
The trial continues.