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Hate crime laws urgently needed

Local News 15 Jan, 2022 Follow News

Hate crime laws urgently needed

By Lindsey Turnbull

Following the recent homophobic attack on a gay couple, the Cayman LGTBTQ Foundation Founder and Chairman Noel Cayasso-Smith is calling for an urgent review of the law to allow hate crimes to be a criminal offence. However, although he feels that the law needed to be passed as soon as possible - to protect the gay community and other members of the community from such crimes - there is still work to be done in order to make the law a reality.

Mr Cayasso-Smith said the first step to implementing a hate crime Bill would be to pinpoint where the problems currently existed. Walls within the police service itself needed to be broken down, he felt.

He is not wasting time on getting the issue resolved.

“We are holding a meeting this week with the police department on this issue. The RCIPS LGBTQ Liaison Officer DC Patricia Sevik will be meeting with us, along with representatives of Colours Cayman,” he advised. “Part of the problem is that there is a lot going on but this is not being reported to the police, even though they have a dedicated LGBT Liaison Officer. People feel like even if they do report incidents, they are being discriminated against. No matter what they say, it’s not going to be dealt with fairly, they say.”

Mr Cayasso-Smith said it would be helpful if the RCIPS officers received sensitivity training. The training had been discussed previously but had never been put in place. Mr Cayasso-Smith said he would like to see a training expert from the UK deliver such training to RCIPS officers. Having met with the Governor to discuss the issue of a hate crime Bill, Mr Cayasso-Smith said the Governor was receptive to the idea of looking into a UK specialist delivering such training.

would be nice if all organisations involved – the Red Cross, Colours Cayman and Cayman LGBTQ Foundation - could be included so we have knowledge about what is being said and get our ideas put across to ensure it is a well-targeted and relevant training,” he said.

Governor Martyn Roper said he had confidence that the RCIPS would ensure those responsible for the hate crime on the gay couple faced justice.

“More generally, I welcome the Police Commissioner’s strong commitment to ensure that RCIPS serve all members of our community. I am exploring ways of supporting him to deliver that more effectively, including through the provision of training,” the Governor confirmed.

Government Bill needed

Mr Cayasso-Smith said that his next goal was to reach out to Government in order to have a meeting with all the Heads of Department who would be involved in spearheading this law. Premier Wayne Panton had suggested that the law be written into the Penal Code and the Governor had said that it should be domestic hate crime legislation for the three islands, he advised. Mr Cayasso-Smith said it would be important for the community to have its say in the drafting of the law and he would expect a period during which public consultation and discussion could take place.

“Now that we have spoken with the Governor, we now need to approach the Government to see if we can get the legislation drafted. The Premier has confirmed that he supports the Bill. It is now just a matter of sitting down and discussing the matter and finalising it,” he advised.

Hate crime impacts everyone

“From a gay perspective, I don’t think it’s fair for anyone to be treated as if they don’t matter. Name calling in public, assault, sexual abuse. And this doesn’t not just to apply to the gay community, this goes for everyone. I just want people to feel comfortable that they can go out and enjoy themselves and not have to worry,” Mr Cayasso-Smith said. “I want stiffer penalties for such crimes.”

Making Cayman a safer place for all members of the community benefited everyone, not just the gay community. Hate crimes impacted tourism as well.

“Tourism is impacted by such crimes,” he said. “Especially as we pride ourselves as offering a true CaymanKind welcome to all our tourists.”

Governor Roper said UK hate crime law recognised such crimes on the basis of race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity and there was currently a private members Bill looking to add misogyny to that list.

He said that Cayman should look to ensure that everyone in the community could feel safe and free to be themselves without fear of exclusion or worse.

“I urge everyone in our community to treat others with courtesy, dignity and tolerance at all times,” Governor Roper said.

Community involvement

Mr Cayasso-Smith felt that Cayman had come such a long way with regards to the rights of gay people, in particular with the PRIDE event that took place without any problems at all and which was well supported by the community.

In the short term, Mr Cayasso-Smith said he intended to hold a town hall meeting to hear the concerns of the community.

“Feedback will be really important in formulating the legislation,” he advised.


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