(CMR) Judge Roger Chapple heard the Director of Public Prosecution's arguments in court Monday afternoon that sought to appeal the decision of Magistrate Angelyn Hernandez's community service sentence of Skylar Mack and Ramjae “VJ” Ramgeet.
It was revealed last week by the Deputy Governor that the DPP would be appealing the decision as it ran contrary to what the legislators intended. The notice to appeal was filed on December 8 by the Crown.
Arguing that the magistrate was too lenient Patrick Moran sought to have a custodial sentence and at least a fine imposed on the pair who breached quarantine provisions on November 29.
During his submissions, a number of details came out including how Mack had sought to fool the Travel Cayman authorities by having her wristband replaced claiming that it was too tight and cutting into her skin.
Her attorney, Jonathan Hughes claims that there were marks on her wrist that demonstrated the bracelet was fitted too tightly.
Moran laid out further details which include the fact that she arrived on the island from Miami just two days before attending the event to support her boyfriend of just seven months.
Both pleaded guilty after astute observers notified event organizers at the CIWA sponsored jetski race on November 29.
Moran argued that Mack signed an undertaking before arriving which required her to fully read and understand what she was agreeing to. He argued that she not only took the chance of prosecution but “dishonored those undertakings”.
The judge asked for further clarification as it related to the quarantine document which Mack would have signed before arriving in the Cayman Islands. Sharing that he himself was familiar with the process as he had not too long arrived and was subjected to the same quarantine procedures.
Both Mack and Ramgeet were later placed in a government quarantine facility. It was revealed that Ramgeet has requested they be quarantined together. His request was denied.
The CIWA sponsored race event was said to be “heavily crowded” with “hundreds of people in attendance.” Mack was also observed without her wristband and no mask in close proximity to multiple persons including a young child. It was revealed that the ordeal had caused great distress to the other attendees including the child's mother.
Initially, when questioned by the authorities Mack lied that she had arrived several weeks earlier. When pressed she finally admitted it was just two days before. She argued that she “could have come close to a couple of people but would not have been around them long enough to give anyone anything.”
Despite her claims, it appears she was at the event for the better half of seven hours before being apprehended by authorities.
She then told the police “I know officer what happens from here” and was warned for prosecution and transported to the Holiday Inn.
Her attorney relied on her youthful age sharing that she was an 18-year-old and would be penalized for not being allowed to spend the Christmas holidays with her family. She shared that she was immature and selfish.
Moran pointed out that her plans to leave the island soon should not be a determining factor in any sentence given to her.
Her boyfriend, Caymanian Ramgeet went to collect her on the morning of the event around 8:00 am after claiming that he attempted to dissuade her from attending. However, he claims that she persisted.
As a result of their actions and subsequent contact tracing four other persons have had to self isolate.
Morgan argued that the community service sentence did not reflect the significant risk of harm and the level of culpability given that she had arranged the breach. He also noted that the legislators had recently increased the penalty to include a financial penalty of up to CI$10,000 and up to two years imprisonment.
He noted that there was a clear risk of her exposing others and re-introducing community transmission in the Cayman Islands; causing significant harm to public health.
The judge sought some clarification on the covid regulations that were in force versus the police regulations and curfew reaches that fell under the Police Law which includes a maximum sentence of 6 months imprisonment.
He also noted that Cayman officials had implemented “strong and swift regulations”. Observations were made about the court's inability to enforce the compensation order but Hughes confirmed that Mack had already paid her in full and that Ramgeet had paid 50% of his thus far.
Justice Chapple inquired about the Magistrate's decision to hold Ramgeet more culpable than Mack and whether that was correct. Hugh, representing both parties struggled with explaining it and said that in his view it was a “joint effort, involvement of both parties”.
The judge will render his decision in the morning given that the pair could be out of quarantine in a few days. Mac is a medical student and is scheduled to leave the island on December 22.
In the final analysis, Justice Chapple asked the crown to what extent should the court's decisions reflect the public fury and the general public's view towards this offense. Moran replied, “as far as possible.”
Hughes shared that they had suffered enough as Mack had received death threats and her father lost sponsorship opportunities because of her publically embarrassing decision. Ramgeet is said to be unemployed with little means.
The judge noted that this was an important case that needs a reasoned judgment. Whilst he is unable to deliver that on such short notice he would render his decision first thing on Tuesday morning.