Governor says hate crime law a government decision

The content originally appeared on: Cayman Compass

While Governor Martyn Roper says hate crime legislation is a matter for Cayman’s government to determine, he has agreed with local LGBTQIA+ groups that it is an important issue to raise for discussion.

“We should explore how we can ensure everyone in our community can feel safe and free to be themselves without fear of exclusion or worse,” Roper said on Thursday in his first statement since a homophobic attack on two men last week.

His comment follows a meeting Wednesday with Noel Cayasso-Smith, CEO of the Cayman LGBTQ Foundation and DC Patricia Sevik, the RCIPS LGBT liaison officer, to discuss their concerns about hate crime and tolerance in Cayman, particularly the violent assault which left one man with a broken nose.

In his statement, Roper urged “everyone in our community to treat others with courtesy, dignity and tolerance at all times.”

Cayasso-Smith, speaking with the Cayman Compass on Thursday about the discussion, said he was quite pleased following the meeting with governor Roper.

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While he said he was happy that the governor will be meeting the police commissioner to discuss further action as it relates to the issue of hate crimes in Cayman, he stated that the ball is now with government to move the issue forward, legislatively.

“Once we have the government-backing, then it would have to go to drafting… then to us for review,” Cayasso-Smith said.

However, he said he was still waiting for Premier Wayne Panton to get back to him regarding that discussion.

While he waits, Cayasso-Smith says the Foundation plans to push for the law changes to happen in the coming months, given it is an important and “seriously concerning matter”.

“It is not only for the gay community, but for everyone. No one should be targeted for their sexual orientation or disability… or anything,” he said.

Roper acknowledged the LGBTQ Foundation’s urging Cayman to consider introducing “broad reach legislation” on hate crime.

Cayasso-Smith said it is still very much a “work in progress” but, “we are not going to rest until we see it through.”

Roper said he welcomed the police commissioner’s “strong commitment to ensure that the RCIPS serves all members of our community. I am exploring ways of supporting him to deliver that more effectively, including through the provision of training”.

He said the incident itself is a matter for the RCIPS and is being fully investigated.

“I have confidence that the RCIPS will ensure those responsible face justice,” he said, as he steered clear of commenting on the attack.

No suspects have been arrested for the attack which occurred in the carpark of The Strand on West Bay Road shortly before 12:20am on 3 Jan.

According to police the two men, who were in a vehicle at the carpark, were approached by two other men who made homophobic remarks towards them, and then assaulted them – kicking and punching them repeatedly.

A local philanthropist has pledged a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the people behind the attack.

Roper commenting on hate crime law, said, UK law, “for example, recognises such crimes on the basis of race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity and there is currently a private members Bill looking to add misogyny to that list”.

As it relates to Cayman a formal position from government is yet to be articulated.

The Cayman Compass reached out to Premier Wayne Panton’s Office for a comment following the attack and the calls for hate crime law, but no response was received at publication time.

A subsequent follow-up also went unanswered.

Meanwhile, Colours Caribbean has also indicated its intention to meet with the Governor, Premier and police on the concerns within the local LGBTQIA+ community.

“Unfortunately, despite all of the progress we’ve made, it is painfully evident that there is still much work to be done. There are still many who do not feel comfortable displaying acts of affection with their partners in public for fear of assault or harassment. Worse yet, many do not even feel comfortable reporting acts of assault or harassment to the police or other persons of authority when they do happen, for fear of being ignored or facing further abuse and stigma,” the not-for-profit said in a statement this week.

It called for the community step up and take action, adding that anyone who has more information on the incident to go directly to the RCIPS or they can communicate with Colours Caribbean confidentially.

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