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Speech By the Hon. Attorney General on the Opening of the Supreme Court of the Turks and Caicos Islands for the 2015 Session

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My Lady Chief Justice, Judges of the Supreme Court, distinguished guests, President of the Bar Council and Colleagues at the Bar, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am pleased to rise to move a motion for the opening of the Supreme Court for the 2015 session after a long abeyance in this practice. On this ceremonial occasion, it is perhaps timely to recall the origins of this event in the Middle Ages in the United Kingdom. For the legal fraternity, this traditional gathering commemorates the principles of defending access to justice and the rule of law. I commend My Lady Chief Justice for reintroducing the practice as such events “… reminds all of those actively involved within the legal system of the need to uphold these principles internationally, as well as at home, for the benefit of society.”
With your Ladyship’s leave I propose in moving the motion, to make a few observations by way of a brief retrospective on 2014 as well as a look at some of the work before us.
2014 can only be described as another daunting year for the legal profession in the Turks and Caicos Islands. A year in which there was more than the usual share of challenges. Fortunately we were more than able to rise to each challenge and to dispassionately and calmly meet matters head on.
My Ladies, 2014 was characterized by continued good work, co-operation and endeavour in a number of areas by stakeholders in the legal arena and significant further progress towards systemic improvements.
Access to Law – Work is almost completed on the current Law Revision which has a revision date of 31st December 2014 and is intended to be issued before the end of the first quarter of 2015. In this regard, the question of greater access to the laws of the Turks and Caicos Islands is being explored to provide a solution that would allow more ready access through the use of modern technology whilst at the same time maintain the integrity of the authorized versions of the Law which would be used in the Court room setting.
Legislation – I am pleased to report in a bid to give effect to the Government’s Legislative Agenda, that the Legislative Drafting division had another very active year and with the cooperation and involvement of members of the legal profession, associations and the general public a number of important pieces of legislation were progressed. We are grateful for the assistance of all those who participated in the consultation process with respect to the very many pieces of legislation which were considered throughout the year, including legislation dealing with the better regulation of Not For Profit organizations.
The hardworking staff of the Legislative Drafting division consists of three drafters and one legislative systems administrator with a vacancy in one of the drafting positions. That small team produced 24 Ordinances and some 50 pieces of subsidiary legislation.
Of note:
1. The Abolition of Bearer Shares which was done by a December 2013 Ordinance which took effect in the first half of 2014.
2. Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance 2014 which provides for the implementation of the United Nations Convention respecting the suppression of the financing of terrorism and the United Nations Security Council resolution on terrorism and generally to make provision for preventing and combating terrorism. The Ordinance is modelled after the UK Terrorism Act 2000 and the Terrorism (Jersey) Law 2002.
3. Rehabilitation of Offenders Ordinance 2014 – provides for the rehabilitation of offenders who have not been reconvicted within the specified rehabilitation period. This is to ensure that people do not have lifelong blots on their records because of relatively minor offences in their past, which may impact negatively in such persons acquiring employment or other services. The intention of the Ordinance is to exclude any prejudice which may occur because of disclosures of person’s relatively minor past convictions or offences; and to aid the reintegration and resettlement of ex-offenders into employment by not requiring them or any other person to disclose or answer questions regarding their spent convictions.

4. Financial Intelligence Agency Ordinance 2014 – established an independent agency to assist in the detection, prevention and control of financial crimes; by receiving reports of suspicious transactions from financial institutions and other persons; analysing that information and disseminating it to law enforcement authorities and relevant bodies.

5. Invest Turks and Caicos Islands Agency 2014 – established the Invest Turks and Caicos Agency as a corporate body with legal personality to assist the Government in encouraging business and commercial development in the Islands.

6. Dormant Accounts Ordinance 2014 – makes provision for financial institutions to report dormant accounts to the Permanent Secretary, Finance and to transfer monies in accounts that have not been used for more than 7 years, called “dormant accounts” to the Government, subject to claims for repayment by the owners of the dormant accounts. Prior to the enactment of that Ordinance, all inactive accounts were managed by banks. The Ordinance was based largely on the Cayman Islands Dormant Accounts Law 2010 but consideration was also given to the BVI Dormant Accounts Act 2011 and the Republic of Ireland Dormant Accounts Act 2001.
Additionally, a heavy legislative drafting programme is being prepared for the year 2015 in order to give effect to the Government’s Legislative Agenda.
Some of the proposals to be implemented by legislative measures include-
1. New Domestic Insurance provisions
2. Trust law reform
3. Immigration law reform
4. Important criminal law and procedure reforms
5. An Employment Bill to repeal and replace the current law with substantial reforms
6. Small Medium Enterprise proposals to encourage local business
7. An Attorney General’s Reference Bill to enable questions to be referred to the court
8. New and substantial anti Domestic Violence provisions
9. More elaborate provision to provide for the Maintenance of Children
10. Detailed Family Guardianship Custody and Access to Children provisions
11. Better provision for Child (Care and Adoption)
12. New provisions relating to Child and Juvenile Justice
As well as the completion of work on the long consulted new Legal Profession provisions to reform the law in this area to provide for better accountability and effectiveness in areas such as the training of local attorneys and continuous education generally, handling client accounts, requirements relating to good practice for insurance coverage, solvency and discipline.
International obligations – As for international obligations, during 2014 the Turks and Caicos Islands completed negotiations and signed a FATCA agreement with the United States of America, was a member of the early adopters group along with all of the Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies following recent developments in the new international Standard for Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information in Tax Matters. We saw the beginning of the National Risk Assessment of our financial services industry using the World Bank tool, which is a self-assessment ahead of the next round of peer assessments by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force. I wish to personally thank the members of the Bar and the private sector generally for their participation and ongoing commitment.
Crime – On the crime front, we note the continued extensive work of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Police in meeting the many challenging situations over the past year. In so doing I take this opportunity to thank the outgoing DPP JoAnn Meloche who has served the Islands with energy and determination during her tenure and has seen the progressive development of the Office of the DPP which may be her enduring legacy. Additionally, I wish to offer our sincere gratitude to the outgoing Commissioner of Police Colin Farquhar who has led the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force through the numerous challenges faced by them and the Islands during his tenure. At the same time, I welcome the incoming Commissioner James Smith to the post and extend to him our good wishes for a smooth transition.
I also take this opportunity to commend the DPP and the Commissioner and their respective teams of Officers for their strenuous efforts in fighting crime and overseeing law and order.
Administration of Justice – Turning now to the administration of justice, our gratitude goes out to the former Chief Justice Edwin Goldsbrough for his competent service to the Islands as head of the Judiciary. With the appointment of My Lady Chief Justice we have already begun to see the fruits of some of the energy referred to by His Excellency Governor Beckingham in his speech at the swearing in. Noting that a new Judge of the Supreme is shortly to arrive and other efforts at reforming the administration of the judiciary are already underway with plans to promote important law reforms, many of which coincide with areas of law reform already being considered. Other areas of welcome reform which are being considered include the publication of statistics and better financial management.

On the issue of facilities, we saw the opening of an additional and much needed courtroom on Providenciales, however, it is noted that the increasing reliance on video-conference or remote testimony, in both domestic as well as mutual assistance in criminal matters cases, would be greatly hampered if these facilities were not of an acceptable standard or were not well maintained. My Lady, the Government is committed to ensuring the proper resourcing of the courts and it is hoped that improvements in this area will shortly be realized.

The volume of civil and commercial litigation has markedly increased and important work on establishing an accessible repository of judicial decisions which would be greatly assist civil and commercial litigators needs the support of the bar to succeed. All levels of the Courts have been incredibly busy and notwithstanding some challenges, it is obvious that the judiciary has worked assiduously during 2014 and has accomplished much.
Personnel side – My Ladies, I am pleased to say that two additional civil/commercial attorneys and one additional drafter are due to be hired within my Chambers in the first quarter of 2015. I am equally pleased to announce that Mrs. Wynante Adrien-Roberts has today taken up her position as Deputy Attorney General following the February 2014 vacancy. Mrs. Adrien-Roberts is a thoroughly qualified and experienced attorney having been solicitor general in Dominica for many years before moving to the private bar. Mrs. Adrien-Roberts will focus on training and development within my Chambers and will undoubtedly be an asset to my already stellar team.
We recognize that while change is underway in some areas, there are still steps which need to be taken towards full implementation of others in 2015. The challenges of dispensing justice are numerous and supporting each other is our strength. Together we ought to stand up in our various roles as the judiciary, the legal service and the private bar and make a difference.

My Ladies there remains only for me to reiterate the continued commitment of the Government in ensuring the required resources for the smooth administration of Justice, and of my Chambers to providing quality service and our assistance in whatever way we can to facilitate the efficient conduct of the business of these Courts, valuing the independence of the Judiciary as a corner stone to the rule of law and in moving the motion for the opening of the Supreme Court 2015 to wish for your Ladyships, Magistrates, Court Staff, and all here present, a prosperous and productive New Year.
I now formally move the motion for the opening of the Turks and Caicos Islands Supreme Court for the year 2015. May it so please you my Ladies.
Rhondalee Braithwaite-Knowles, OBE
Hon. Attorney General
5th January 2015

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News

PREPARE FOR PRICE SPIKES AT THE PUMP: OPEC TO MAKE MAJOR GAS PRODUCTION CUTS 

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#TurksandCaicos, October 5, 2022 – A significant jump in gas prices may be looming as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is expected to cut production in its meeting on October 5th. Gas prices rose more than $2 dollars on Tuesday in anticipation of the meeting.

Gas prices had soared to incredible highs in early 2022 following sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine and western countries subsequently shunning the oil and gas provided by the Eurasian nation.

This year oil remained steadily above $110 a barrel for the most part from February to July even rising to $130 a barrel briefly in March and everyone felt the pinch eventually.

Gas Prices in the Turks and Caicos rose more than $1.68 reaching highs of $8.10 and power bills in June caused widespread panic and outrage in residents, prompting calls for the government to investigate and birthing forgiveness programs for the swaths of families unable to pay the bills in full.

The TCI has still not quite recovered from the ultra high prices earlier this year based on the government’s monthly gas price index and $2.5 million was just allocated to put a cap on fuel prices for domestic customers.

Now according to analysts at Reuters, oil production may be cut up to 1 million barrels per day. Currently oil prices are trading well below 100 dollars but all eyes are on the OPEC meeting to be held in Vienna.

With demand staying strong across the globe as the Russia-Ukranian war drags on, quarantines and lockdowns become a thing of the past, and upcoming sanctions to Russian crude oil consumers must brace for what analysts say will likely be a jump, once again, in prices.

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Crime

Virginia Mourns Black Community Leader Murdered on Vacation in Turks & Caicos 

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#TurksandCaicos, October 5, 2022  – Kent Carter was an army veteran and the first Vice President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Arlington Virginia.  An established realtor in his native US and described as a ‘stand up guy’, Kent was an active leader in his community— until last Sunday when criminals in an effort to take out rivals, uncaring of innocents, sprayed the vehicle he was traveling with bullets.

For months Turks and Caicos community leaders have been warning that gun violence is robbing us of our bright young men, now another nation has been robbed as well. It has been confirmed that Carter leaves behind a wife and at least one young daughter.

Kent’s death was confirmed by the NAACP Arlington Branch on Wednesday in a notification of loss.

“NAACP Arlington Branch mourns the tragic and unexpected loss of our 1st Vice President, Kent Carter, who passed away Sunday, October 2, 2022, while vacationing abroad.”

In the immediate hours after the announcement the story was picked up by multiple major American media houses including Fox News and tributes began to pour in. Virginia Senator Don Beyer described it as a ‘terrible loss’. Across the board from political organizations to county board members, to homeowners whom he had helped close on properties the environment was one of shock and disbelief.

Magnetic Media has observed the effect Carter, who described himself as a proud ‘girl dad’ had on the individuals around him. He participated in food drives, black upliftment sessions and was a regular vacationer to other places worldwide. Carter was not only a social activist he was a top realtor in his area and his personal social media is filled with smiling photos of families and individuals he helped to make homeowners, calls to action and social outreach programs.  The outpouring of grief was astounding.

His neighbor Robert York described him to Fox News.

“Just a really great, standup guy, you know? One of the best neighbors you could have,” he said “He and his family, just really great neighbors. So this is just incredibly sad news.”

After enjoying a jet ski ride on Sunday October 2nd he was headed back to his hotel when gunmen rained bullets on the vehicle he was traveling in with when the operators of the rides who were themselves the target of the attack.

Indiscriminately cruel are the words that must be used to describe these criminals to whom innocence has proved to be no deterrent and proximity enough for a death sentence.

The tragedy raises tough questions. How many of our young men are involved in the ‘gun and drug trade’ which National Security officials have fingered for the attack? How deeply are they embedded? How many of them are on the streets in reasonable day jobs?

The government was aware of the issue at least as weeks ago at the very onset of this violence the premier rejected the idea that the young men involved in crime were not able to support themselves saying rather that they were trying to take shortcuts to wealth.

“In this microwave generation where instant gratification surpasses everything else there are too many young people who don’t want to go through the process and work hard. If you’re not prepared to do it the old-fashioned way and to be honest you’re making a shortcut that could potentially end in an early grave.”

 

Photo Credit: NAACP Arlington Branch

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Statement on Incident Involving Visitor on 2nd October 2022

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#TurksandCaicos, October 4, 2022 – The Government of the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) regrets the unfortunate incident involving the death of a visitor to our islands on 2nd October 2022.  The incident which occurred was accidental and not one in which the victim was targeted.  While the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police force (RTCIPF) continues their investigations, we wish to reassure the public (citizens, residents, and visitors alike) that the safety and security of all, is our top priority.

The TCI has long established itself as a safe destination for visitors from around the world.  Evidence of this can be seen in the countless awards the destination has won, most recently at the World Travel Awards.  Our commitment to providing safety to residents and visitors is unwavering.  The government will continue to work with local authorities including the RTCIPF and our partners in the international community to protect residents and visitors alike.

The incident which occurred on the date mentioned above is one that is rare and does not reflect who we are as a people.  On behalf of the government and people of these islands, we extend our sympathies to the family and friends of the victim.

As this matter is now an on-going police investigation, further statements will be referred to RTCIPF.

The TCI remains a safe destination and the government is working assiduously for it to remain as such.

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