(CMR) The following is a re-publication from Cayman News Service on testimony given last week in the sentencing hearing of Sandra Hill. Hill appeared before Justice Chapple on November 26, representing herself and called three live witnesses.
At this time because everything is being twisted by the DPP to fit a certain narrative we have chosen to not report on the hearing at this time but will do so after December 10. However, this article by CNS covers some important points our readers would be interested in as well.
Other media have shared with us “this case keeps us up at night also”. The conversation will be had in the weeks after the trial and any potential appeal that may be forthcoming:
(CNS): The use of ICT legislation to prosecute Sandra Hill, the owner of the Cayman Marl Road website, over a controversial podcast last year about local businessman, Matthew Leslie, worried two MPs who appeared in court last week on her behalf. Chris Saunders (BTW) queried why Hill was in the dock and Leslie wasn’t, given the long-standing allegations that had not been investigated, as he spoke up for Hill at her sentencing hearing.
Both Saunders and Kenneth Bryan (GTC) said they believed that if there was an issue to address it should have been in the civil court and if Leslie felt that the things said about him were untruthful, he should have sued.
In a difficult moment for the court during the trial, as it had rejected the idea that the truth of Hill’s broadcast was not the main issue, Saunders told the judge that a number of his constituents have complained about Leslie’s behaviour over the years. Even an underage female member of his own family had been solicited by the former political candidate.
“It boggles my mind why he has not been prosecuted,” the MP stated, but added this was probably because people don’t trust those tasked with carrying out the investigations.
Saunders said that families were reluctant to go to the police as they believed victims would not be well treated by the justice system. As a result, many had remained silent. Saunders told the judge that there are times when the legal system falls behind justice and people seek the justice elsewhere, for example on Hill’s platform.
While Saunders said he appreciated that Leslie had not been prosecuted for his alleged behaviour, what was worrying his constituents in this case was that the person “who had called it out” was being punished.
The MP said other media in the past would not address these types of issues and things were swept under the rug. But Hill was not afraid to question these things, he said, adding, “I was surprised by the verdict.”
Saunders said he had “thought long and hard” about coming to speak for Hill because of the importance of the separation of powers between politics and the courts. But he made it clear that he was worried about the implications of the case for the media as public figures had to be held to account.
He said he did not always like what was published by Hill and even he had been a target recently, but he added that it “might be ugly but we need to do it”, as he spoke of the unpleasant things that can be exposed by the media.
Bryan, who stayed clear of labelling Leslie, was also worried about how Hill had found herself in criminal court. However, he was cut off by the judge when he tried to give evidence that prosecutors appeared to have misused the ICT law in the case against Hill.
He argued that Hill was a reflection of the changing media landscape as a result of social media and that she “should be praised” for what she was doing with the website, not prosecuted, because it was part of the changing times.
Bryan also noted that her role in society is unpleasant because she exposes wrongdoing and holds people to account, especially when it came to taboo subjects that Cayman society had neglected to talk about. “We need that now,” he added. “We do need to challenge the taboo topics in society.”
He said Hill was “pushing boundaries”, implying that not everyone liked that, but he pointed out that this was what the public demanded.
When asked by the prosecutor if they had listened to the whole podcast at the centre of the issue, been present during the trial or read the judge’s ruling, both men said they had not. But when crown counsel Darlene Oko pressed them on whether they believed it had been right for Hill to label Leslie as a sexual predator or paedophile, both MPs pointed out that if the accusations were untrue Leslie should have sued in civil court.