“Wearing of the wristband is intrinsic in ensuring persons abide by the quarantine law and is the only means by which the MCT involved in the quarantine process are able to identify any breaches and quickly act.”
Crown Counsel, Greg Walcolm
(CMR) Canadian film director Thomas Michael appeared in Grand Court Wednesday afternoon to appeal his 30-day prison sentence for breaching quarantine after arriving in the Cayman Islands to work on a film project.
He was sentenced by Chief Magistrate Valdis Foldats on May 14 and placed into immediate custody and has already served six days of his sentence.
Michael appeared before Justice Richards and was represented by Ben Tonner who laid out the facts in brief of what transpired. He noted that the appellant arrived on the island on March 20 with his two young children, wife and nanny. He had been approved to work on the production of a film project.
He organized a private rental in North Side and was fitted along with his family with the quarantine wrist bands and signed the documentation agreeing to certain terms including not removing the bracelet and not submerging it in water for a longer period of time.
After a routine check, both he and the nanny were found to not be wearing their wristbands at the pool and were warned for prosecution.
Tonner noted that he pleaded guilty and there was a delay in the prosecution deciding to charge his client. For the appeal he laid out three grounds for appeal notably:
The magistrate made an error and applied the guidelines for breach of curfew without first adjusting it downward in favor of his client. This meant that Chief Magistrate Foldats started at a point that was “too high for sentencing.” He further argued that the appellant did not breach the quarantine because he still with his family the entire time.
Chief Magistrate misinterpreted the Court of Appeal's decision in the Skylar and Ramjeet case thinking that decision meant he has no option but to impose a custodial sentence. By using this interpretation he failed to consider the variety of other available penalties that would have lead to justice in this case.
His nanny had since left the jurisdiction and left the toddlers with the mother who had a documented illness. This point was partially raised during the initial sentencing hearing but further evidence of the wife's illness was now available including a doctor's note. This predicament has left the appellant's dependents in a dire situation.
He also spoke of his client's dire financial situation as a result of the breach as he had been suspended from work pending the outcome of the situation.
Tonner explored the historical development of the law which was updated after a Canadian couple flagrantly breached the COVID-19 provisions and were only fined $1,000 each. He noted that the started point of 6 months custodial sentence was too high given all the details of this case.
He further argued that unlike the Skylar Mack/Ramjeet case there was no significant harm to the community.
DPP Crown Counsel, Greg Walcolm countered these arguments by stating that the learned magistrate carefully considered all options available to him before settling on the 30-day custodial sentence. In fact, he noted that the appellant had purposely stretched and removed the wrist band on the day of his arrival.
Justice Richards heard from the DPP that when he was confronted by the Mobile Compliance Team they first ran inside the condo with the children, shut the door and refused to open the door until the police were called. They quickly replaced the wristbands and further lied that the wristbands were not removed. CCTV footage had to be pulled to pull the facts together.
Walcolm said that the first time they had an admittance of guilt was on March 28 when he reached out to them via email. He called their actions a “highly culpable and deliberate breach” that begun on the day they arrived and was only discovered because of routine checks on the 23 – several days later.
Walcolm said that was a “deliberate breach of regulation two that was sustained from March 20 – 23 and detection only happened by chance. He further argued the removal of the wristbands is a serious infraction and was the earliest possible opportunity to address any further issues.
He noted that Chief Magistrate Foldats used a holistic approach and had properly considered all the elements of the offense, the sentencing guidelines and the appropriate starting point for sentencing and that in the circumstances the sentence was proportionate to the offense.
He also pointed out the appellant lied about the removal of the bracelet including that it was causing harm to the child and that his landlord had told him he could remove them and no one would know.
He dismissed the supposed hardship the nanny was facing stating that she left the jurisdiction once she realized there was a real likelihood that she too would be charged and that his wife had options including hiring a new nanny or getting her family to assist her by leaving the jurisdiction with the two young children.
Judge Richards retired to consider the matter.