(CMR) Former immigration officer and convict, Carlington Dawson (39), was sentenced in Grand Court to a fine of $2,500 after a three-day hearing that ended in December for contempt of court after he plead guilty to acting as an attorney in several divorce matters submitted to the court. He was found to be in contempt of section 9 of the Legal Practitioners Act (2015) Revision and was also ordered to reimburse one of the women.
Dawson worked as a senior administrator at CayOrchid Administration Ltd.; a position he started in July 2019. Essentially Dawson filed divorce petitions on behalf of other people in two separate divorce cases. In December 2020 the applications were dismissed because they were not signed by the Petitioners or their Attorneys as is required by the Matrimonial Causes Act (“MCA”).
The reason that the parties were seeking a divorce was on the basis of two years' separation. After being summons by the Court pursuant to Rule 15 the Petitioners were informed that the applications did not meet the criteria and was “presented prematurely.”
In one of the matters, the defense affidavit claimed that there were no children of the marriage but they were still seeking an order for interim maintenance. In other words, the statement in the application for divorce was inconsistent with the request for support for a child. The court noted, “It was a nonsense”.
Apparently, the Petitioner signed the petition without understanding the statements it contained because she did not have a good command of the English language. She instead relied on Dawson's advice. She eventually hired an attorney who discontinued the application.
Dawson was issued notices to show why he should not be held in contempt for breach of section 9 of the LPA. Section 9 essentially says that someone who is not the Petitioner or the Respondent (a party to the marriage) cannot make an application to dissolve the marriage because they would be acting as an attorney-at-law; which he is not.
In a February 2021 hearing Dawson admitted that he was in contempt of court and apologized to the Court claiming that he did not know his actions “amounted to acting as an attorney” and that he was “merely trying to assist the women” who were business clients of his CayOrchid business.
He accepted that he had prepared and signed the From 8 applications for Orders as well as the relevant affidavits and filed them on behalf of the Petitioners and received $2,500.00 for his services.
The Court recognized that the LPA does not actually provide any penalty for a section 9 content and this is the first case of it's kind in the Cayman Islands. His pro bono lawyer, James Austin-Smith argued that the maximum sentence was two years based on section 11 of the Grand Court Act (2015 Revision). However, Judge Ramsay-Hale disagreed with his submissions noting that:
She went to mention case law to back up her reason for disagreeing and agreed with the Solicitor Genera's submissions that the Grand Court's powers to commit the contemnor to prison is at common law and in is unlimited. However, she did look at the English authorities as guidance for the approach the Court should take in determining what the appropriate sanction for contempt should be.
She then considered the sentencing principles and applied them to Dawson's specific case noting that the Court must protect it's processes from abuse and that Dawson wasted everyone's time including his paying clients. She also noted that he was exploiting his clients by taking money for work he was not competent to do which caused both Petitioners to have their cases either dismissed or withdrawn.
She considered his early “full admission and apology” as mitigating factors but also noted that he sought to profit from his conduct which was an aggravating feature but given him credit for not soliciting the clients for that purpose. He's also the primary breadwinner of his family with tow school aged children – something that was taken into consideration by the Judge.
However, the Court was keen to sent a stern message to Dawson and deter others from acting as lawyers. He had been previously convicted for a dishonesty offense but the judge decided to fine him and have him pay $2,500 along with the filing fees as compensation to one of the Petitioners.
On his LinkedIn Dawson is listed at the General Manager at CayOrchid Administration Limited. He was previously convicted of six offense relating to work permit for an employee he hired at his construction company, Blueprint Construction Ltd.
Dawson was found guilty in December 2014 of making a false statement on two work permit applications, employing a man as a supervisor when his permit was as a mason, and receiving the unlawful payments for permits. In addition, he pleaded guilty to failure to maintain a health insurance policy for the employee. He received a suspended jail sentence for those offenses.
In that case he was charged with The charge the defendant admitted was falsely stating on a work permit application form that the worker was receiving a salary of $1,800 and benefited from insurance, although he knew this information was false. He indicated that this was an error due to an oversight on his part.