Sandra Hill fined $3,000 for ICT harassment conviction

Cayman Marl Road administrator Sandra Teresa Hill has been fined $3,000 and ordered not to publish any future posts about businessman Matthew Leslie.

The sentence, which was handed down on Tuesday, 15 Dec., comes a little more than four months after Hill was convicted on a single count of using an information and communications network to abuse/annoy/harass.

The conviction followed a judge-alone trial before Justice Roger Chapple, for a series of allegations that she made against Leslie in February 2019.

The allegations, which included details of Leslie’s personal and professional life, were made in a podcast and a set of posts that were uploaded to Hill’s Cayman Marl Road website and its social media platforms.

During the trial, Chapple told Hill the job of the court was not to decide whether Leslie was guilty of the allegations she made against him, as he was not on trial.

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Instead, Chapple told Hill the court’s task was to decide whether, by publishing the information, she had harassed Leslie, “as a person could be harassed by information that is both truthful and false”.

When returning the sentence against Hill, Chapple told her he had found her to be a competent person who could be of much good, if she would put her talents to good use.

“During these sentencing proceedings, you have submitted 65 character references, and called three live witnesses; I have read and listened to them all,” he said.

Chapple said he was reluctant to close down Hill’s website because he believed it served a useful purpose, but could be better if she took more care.

As part of the sentence, Hill was also ordered to remove the posts containing the allegations from all public domains on all ICT networks, and not to publish or request anyone to publish on her behalf, or on behalf of CMR, any future posts on Leslie.

The order was varied to allow Hill to post about the sentence, and mention Leslie in that post.

“I’m grateful for the outcome of this case today,” Hill told the Cayman Compass. “It’s a chapter in my life that I am pleased to be able to close. Valuable lessons have no doubt been learnt from this. I’m always mindful to improve myself both professionally and personally, and this has been a time to reflect on all.”

She added, “I appreciate Justice Chapple acknowledging the good that CMR does in the community. I think that the vast number of references that came forward allowed him to gain a more balanced perspective on the situation.”

Leslie told the Compass the verdict was “like a welcome Christmas gift”.

“I’m satisfied with the verdict,” he said. “I have long said that the ‘Sandras’ of the world are needed. As the judge rightly pointed out, she helps to bring matters of community importance to the forefront in a unique way.

“My only problem is when she goes too far, and when she wants to vilify or brand someone … without verifying the details.”

Taking to social media, Leslie posted, “I hope that Sandra uses this as a stepping stone to improve herself and, as a fellow Caymanian, do her best for the community. We need media houses like Cayman Marl Road but we need them to be accountable for all they say as to not repeat the chapter that I experienced.”

Hill was also charged with a second count of misuse of an ICT network, to which she pleaded not guilty in February. Following the end of today’s sentencing proceedings, Crown prosecutor Darlene Oko offered no evidence on the second charge. Chapple then entered a formal not guilty verdict for Hill on that count.

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