Beach access activists finally secure legal aid

| 30/04/2018 | 91 Comments
Cayman News Service

Beach access sign on Grand Cayman

(CNS) UPDATED: After a long and protracted battle to secure funding for a legal challenge against government over its failure to register and protect beach access rights for the public, activists have been granted legal aid to press their case. In his ruling Acting Justice Alastair Malcolm said the applicants’ case had a fair chance of succeeding, bringing a welcome boost to the long campaign. The issue of beach access has recently become a major cause for public concern, with stories mounting about the difficulties local people are experiencing as they try to get to the beach.

A recent report from government paints a bleak picture about access rights, and local activists have been trying to force the attorney general to take the necessary action to register in law those access points. The women have been arguing for more than a dozen years that the Registrar of Lands has the power to register public rights of way and has neglected to do so, resulting in more and more access points being blocked.

In his legal ruling granting the public funding for the civil action against government, the judge wrote, “(T)his action has a reasonable prospect of succeeding and will require the consideration of a substantial question of law.”

Despite this good news, the activists told CNS that they have still not received the legal aid certificate more than six months after the judge made the decision in their favour. But the delay is not the only issue; the women lead the campaign are being asked to contribute for what is a wider public interest case.

Alice Mae Coe said, “It is unconscionable that before they will issue the certificate, and then only assessing what contribution we should be paying towards this case, the Legal Aid Office is again seeking details of our finances by demanding bank statements for the past six months.”

She added, “We believe that this is unreasonable, particularly as we had already provided the required current financial and other records.”

Coe pointed out that this is a community-wide public interest case, not a private action to benefit the activists individually. “This is for the benefit of all Caymanians, residents and visitors to our shores as well,” she added.

The current government had committed to address the problem and recently established a Public Lands Commission. But with the increasing pace of development, the growing number of visitors and a shrinking number of access points to the islands’ beaches, there are real concerns that some of the public rights of way will be lost forever.

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Category: Local News

Comments (91)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    In practical terms, where is the high water mark? Not being facetious … just don’t know.

    • Anonymous says:

      Its the vegetation line that is actually the relevant place boundary. The whole beach is available by prescription (as is all iron shore).

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      • Anonymous says:

        High water mrkk is for practical purposes where the seawater meets the shore line.

        The Prescription Law, Section 4 gives the public the legal right to use the beach / foreshore and the Registered Land Law, Section 138 gives the right to register the Rights of Way used to get from the public road to the beach / foreshore.

        The government has violared the Law when they refused to register the Rights of Way.

        Another example of PPM and UDP working against ordinary Caymanians to benefit the rich and powerful.

  2. Rodney Barnett says:

    Perhaps the place to start would be the public access easement between the Governor’s home and the Westin Hotel which is mostly blocked by vehicles and shipping containers.

  3. Anonymous says:

    THE PUBLIC LANDS LAW, 2017
    (LAW 35 OF 2017)

    26. (1) No person shall, without lawful authority, obstruct or interfere with the
    right of a member of the public under this Law to have access to public land, to
    use public land or to exercise a public right of way over private land.
    (2) A person who contravenes subsection (1) commits an offence and is
    liable on summary conviction to a fine of five thousand dollars or to
    imprisonment for a term of six months, or to both, and shall in addition to such
    fine or imprisonment be liable to a fine of five hundred dollars per day for every
    day after conviction that such obstruction continues to persist.

    This and the exert from the Department of Tourism shows that we have the right by law to have access to the beach and to be allowed to use the beach from the high water mark to the ocean and of the seabed (which belongs to the crown exclusively.) Those that prevent access can (and should) be held accountable by the law. This needs to be enforced and those elected officials or people of authority who do nothing, or drag their feet because they fear of the drop of our country’s lands being sold to non-Caymanians, NEED to be held accountable and penalized as well. They are allowing these crimes, and I saw crimes because that is what they are, to continue with full knowledge. Public rights are already being trampled on for the love of the foreign dollar, this BS needs to stop. Caymanians need to start taking back this island and I say we start with the beaches.

    I call for a general protest on June 30th 2018. Print copies of the law showing your right to be on the beach and to have access and find the homes that have blocked access and make your way to the beach. DO NOT BE A NUISANCE!!!!!!!!! If you are told to leave, refuse and show them a copy of the law. If they call the police, tell the police you DEMAND them arrested for breaking the law of restricting protected public beach access which is clearly and plainly defined or tell the police you will seek their removal for dereliction of duty.

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    • Anonymous says:

      I call on ALL MLA’s and others of authority to do their duty, what you were contracted to do. FOLLOW THE LAW, UPHOLD THE LAW and ENFORCE THE LAW else admit you are a slave to the foreign dollar or admit you have something personal to lose by doing the above mentioned. Either way you do NOT deserve the position you hold and should either step down or be removed. I bet not one will acknowledge this or have the balls to. Those foreigners that own the land don’t vote but we do, remember that.

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    • West Bay Premier says:

      When you take these above instructions to go to the beach , don’t take your machete , but take alot of company with you and pay very close attention to what is going on and is said .

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    • Anonymous says:

      The prescriptive right extends to the natural vegetation line, not just the high water mark.

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      • Anonymous says:

        True but this is aimed specifically at the homes and hotels that have removed the vegetation, those that take it upon themselves to barricade the accesses.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree, let us demonstrate.

      Please publish your contact information and details of the protest.

      • Anonymous says:

        Call me Joe Caymanian and my email is caymanbeachsit@gmail.com

      • Joe Caymanian says:

        Details are simple.

        1. Print the copies of the law and DoT edict regarding beach access and use.
        2. Select a beach you know is block illegally.
        3. Gather some friends and plan a day out.
        4. Do not be a nuisance.

        – No very loud music, respect the homes/businesses.
        – No weapons.
        – No rude/violent/threatening behavior.
        – No litter.
        – No drugs
        – No alcohol (optional but to be peaceful and lawful in this instance I would recommend this.) Or at least be sensible.
        – If told to leave by an officer and they refuse to do anything of the home owner, do not resist or cause yourself to be arrested. Comply with the officer but video the ENTIRE thing. Confrontation with owners and police alike. Let’s have video evidence we are being blocked from exercising our rights and please… FULL VIDEOS.

        5. Remember to always be polite and courteous. Just because they are breaking the law doesn’t mean we have to lower ourselves to their level.

        Protest like Gandhi did, peaceful and non-violent. We are not thugs or hoodlums, that type of representation will not help this cause and will cast a stigma on us. We want to be in the right in all ways with this. Do not voluntarily give the police an excuse to remove you from the beach. You are within your rights.

        If asked to be removed by police, refuse politely stating you are within your rights and prove it by showing them the law. Make the owner prove he has the authority stated in the law to have you removed. Record it and then it can verify they have the right to remove you. If the police are about to force you to move, simply go to the beach on the next property, the owner of that one will have to repeat the process.

        – Record any confrontations, the more videos the better.
        – Record any details like names, dates, times, # of people involved, badge numbers, etc. Knowledge is power people.
        – NO VIOLENCE OR THREATENING BEHAVIOR.
        – BE POLITE AND COURTEOUS ALWAYS, NO THREATS TO ANYONE PERIOD!
        – COMPLY IF THE POLICE INSIST YOU MOVE. IF YOU WISH TO BE ARRESTED FOR THIS THEN THAT IS ON YOU AND YOU ALONE.
        – THIS IS A VOLUNTARY EVENT. JOIN IN AT YOUR OWN RISK. I AM IMPLORING YOU TO BE RESPECTFUL AND PEACEFUL.

        Joe Caymanian @ caymanbeachsit@gmail.com

  4. Anonymous says:

    From the Department of Tourism, page 56 of the 2012-13 TOURIST ACCOMMODATION INSPECTION GUIDELINES & REGULATIONS manual.

    Appendix D
    GUIDELINES FOR OWNERS AND MANAGERS OF BEACHFRONT
    PROPERTIES
    1. In order to dispel any confusion or misunderstanding which may have arisen in
    the past over the rights which members of the public enjoy over Cayman‟s
    beaches the following guidelines may be of assistance, especially to managers of
    beachfront hotels and other tourism related beachfront properties.
    2. The public access to Cayman‟s beaches is by the recognized public rights of way
    which are usually clearly marked on maps and physically on the ground.
    Landowners over whose land these public rights of way exist are under a legal
    duty to make sure that they are kept free and clear of any obstruction or debris.
    3. Once members of the public arrive on the beach the following rules apply.
    4. The seaward boundary of a landowner‟s or tenant‟s property is, in tidal waters,
    the mean high water mark. Between the mean high water mark and the low
    water mark, known as “foreshore”, the land belongs to the Crown as does
    anything below the sea up to the limit of territorial waters.
    5. Where, however, a landowner‟s property consists of “beach” above the mean
    high water mark, then the usual rule, that a landowner can eject anyone he
    chooses from his land, is displaced.
    6. Members of the public have the right to use any part of Cayman‟s beaches for
    recreation even though the part of the beach being used is on private property,
    i.e. is above the mean high water mark. Such a public right is one of a group of
    rights which members of the public enjoy, even over private land, in the
    Cayman Islands. It is a right which the law presumes to have existed for many
    years and which members of the public have acquired under the Prescription
    Law.
    7. Whilst members of the public have no rights to use private property such as
    beach furniture which belongs to beachfront property owners, they may not be
    prevented from using the beach or passing to and fro along the beach even
    where the beach they use is on private land. Hotel managers should ensure that
    all staff working on the beach such a security personnel and food and beverage
    staff are aware of the law and that the public right to use any part of the beach
    is not restricted or limited in any way.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Could the owners and management at Harbour Heights condos take note??
      Please take down your misleading “trespass signs”!
      Your signs are littering our beautiful beach, for which you can be fined!

    • Anonymous says:

      So they cover the beaches in chairs …

      • Anonymous says:

        They can cover the beach all they want with chairs. We just can use them as they are the property of the hotel. Just bring your own chairs.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    There are real laws about rights of way and there are imaginary, made up ones.Your politicians only talk about the made up ones. This is not a slam dunk for most of the so-called rights of way in the report.

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  6. Anonymous says:

    The Cayman Islands government will never protect the rights of the people over the desires of the wealthy or the local business lobby groups.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    Any government that believes, and acts as if, this is a complicated issue, is not fit for purpose.

    – Whodatis

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    • Anonymous says:

      Whodatis, you and I have butted heads on other stories but you and I are in 100% agreement on this. It is not a complicated issue, corruption makes it so and in either sense those that believe this is a complicated issue or will not act needs to be removed.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Yep.

        – Who

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        • Anonymous says:

          The person voting the thumbs down must be a selfish beach front property owner who blocked his lawfully required beach access and feels threatened by a potential sit in behind their house on June 30th 2018.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Big UP New Zealanders they definitely got this shit right by limiting foreign ownership of their lands. Its time Cayman we nationalize properties in the public interest and stop these real estate foreign and local scumbags from selling everything. Create a public trust for the people and future of these islands.

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  9. Anonymous says:

    This whole thing comes down to the fact that land owners who do not want the public to have access to the beach have figured out that they can simply erect a barrier and leave it there for one year. It’s in the Prescriptions Law. If members of the public do not file an official complaint with the proper authority/commission within one year of the barrier being erected, the public lose the right to remove the barrier.

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    • Anonymous says:

      If this is fact, it’s SO wrong and a travesty on every level.

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    • Prescriptions Law Loophole says:

      This is spot on. We recently hired a property attorney to help us get a barrier to beach access removed. The end result was that we would have had to file a complaint within a year of the barrier being erected in order for the Commission to hear our complaint. Because the barrier was there for several years and no one filed a complaint, we lost all right to have the barrier removed.

      People of Cayman, the wealthy land owners have gotten their lawyers to figure out this loophole in the Precriptions Law. File your complaint with the Commission NOW before it’s too late!!!

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      • Anonymous says:

        Bet they are expat lawyers

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      • Anonymous says:

        The government should act on this. I say there should be someone that goes around to inspect the beach accesses randomly in 6 month periods to find those barricading the access and have them penalized. If not we as Caymanian should do so. I know it isn’t our job but we leave too many things in the hands of the government because we “trust” they will do the jobs we were tricked into believing they would. It’s time for action.

        The law is straight forward about restricting access. The government needs to issue an edict giving owners who have barricaded the accesses knowing full well to do so is a crime that they have till a certain date to remove them or face fines and charges. Let them spend money on lawyers to challenge our rights to public access. The more they spend blocking us, the less the matter will be worth fighting.

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s even easier now with decent surveillance cameras to prove that a little barrier or two has been effective. The last thing one wants is to pay a fortune for a property and have the public traipse through it every 10 minutes with their drugs and criminality when there are plenty of places to enter the beach with causes no disruption.

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    • West Bay Premier says:

      I agree with the Ladies 100% on the issue that the establishment of beach access is for the benefit for everyone . Why should we have to fight the Government over the PUBLIC BEACH ACCESS ? This really shows how little interest that Government has into making sure that these are legal public beach access for the people ? Do we see who the Government is protecting here ? Not the Citizens .

      I think that everyone needs to get behind/support the Ladies in this issue .
      Because if it is not legally fixed permanently . I will have to believe that the next step that Government would take is allowing one property owner to BUY one beach access, then goes them all , and no one will have LEGAL ACCESS to the water/beach .

    • Anonymous says:

      These people should be named and shamed until they return the public access

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  10. Anonymous says:

    What great news. Hopefully all beach access are cleared and maintained free from obstruction regularly by the government. Maybe start a new initiative “adopt a beach access ” similar to round about. A sign can probably display “This beach access made possible by xxxx co ltd”

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    • Anonymous says:

      Thats a great idea !

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    • Anonymous says:

      A lot too late. Unless of course you follow the Cayman Kind way and disregard the law. We all know what you re going to do. What is not clear is what the UK will let you get away with this time and where it all ends.

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  11. Jackie Nkomo says:

    New Zealand has definitely set the bar limiting foreign ownership of property Go Kiwis!!! No matter what the international greed cabal think.

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    • Anonymous says:

      That’s good to know because I am Caymanian and also a Kiwi

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    • Anonymous says:

      They were smart from the start and because of that they still own their country. Caymanians have sold most of it off and can not afford to buy it back.

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  12. Anonymous says:

    Over 40 years ago, there was Development Plan which, among many other visionary intentions, included a dual carriageway West Bay Road, set back more towards where the new Esterly Tibbetts Highway is today. But along came a real estate magnate named Jim Bodden who happened to get elected on a controversal platform focusing on “white sand” and the Plan was ditched and the SMB became filled with “for sale” signs featuring a certain real estate company – J.M Bodden & Company (hmmm, coincidence?). And so, our beloved paradise was sold for the white gold and the rest is sad history.

    Ooops, almost forgot – his successor “greed mongers” made him a National Hero!!

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    • Hancock says:

      Yes a National hero who got his personal money mixed up with creditor money which led to the liquidation of Prospect Properties where land was sold twice and often underwater. What a star! A national disaster is closer.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Well, well finally someone has been brave enough to speak the truth about about why the first Draft Development Plan was thrown in the garbage can by the first National Hero.

      Then how the corrupt development industry has controlled government from thst time in the 1970s until today and that is why wr syill fo not have a Development Plan!

  13. Anonymous says:

    We better get our act together quickly because our little island is going to be left behind with competition. Next door Jamaica has the goal of becoming the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business by the year 2030. While this is extremely ambitious to say the least with their law and order problems, they are clearly focused on containing their problems. We need to do the same very quickly.

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  14. Mugabe in Cayman says:

    I say seize they property if the fail to comply with the law. Jail all real estate thieves and pirates immediately for crimes against the environment. Time to take back these precious islands from this menace!

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  15. Anonymous says:

    This private action should be made totally unnecessary, by prompt and decisive action by the sitting government to ENFORCE THE LAW on these violations of the established public accesses. Once again, “Who are we developing for?” If the ordinary people of these islands cannot have access to THEIR beach, then NO ONE SHOULD! Perhaps a few beach ‘sit-ins’ by large peaceful groups near the blocked access paths would wake up these officials that we are not going to stand still and be disadvantaged?? Organize a day of public protest by assembling large groups on the beach adjacent to the blocked accesses. Evil triumphs when good men (and women) do nothing!

    So DO SOMETHING!

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    • Anonymous says:

      Your Government is only a little smarter then the people. You no longer own the island. Only yourselves. If you can’t live with others in peace then where will you go?

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      • Yellowman says:

        you better dont venture into my back yard!

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      • Bonfire Night says:

        That’s the hopelessness those just like you like to preach. Unfortunately its not us alone who have disrupted the peace and tranquility that once existed here and how you speak with such arrogance that we should be the ones that should leave. Oh how short and cruel life is sometimes even for the wicked.

    • Anonymous says:

      June 30th 2018 people… get some friends, pick a blocked beach, print copies of the law and DoT edict, DO NOT BE A NUISANCE!, and exercise you RIGHTS!!!!!!!

      The Beach Sit-in – June 30th 2018

      Give the government and property owners a tablespoon (TBS) of exercised rights. I’m going to put that on a t-shirt and wear it to the beach. Let’s not make this an annual thing.. MONTHLY!!!!

      “Evil triumphs when good men (and women) do nothing!”

      Absolutely correct, people it’s time… The government has given up on us, if they cared to begin with. WE NEED TO TAKE BACK OUR RIGHTS!

  16. Anonymous says:

    yawn…..

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  17. J Dubba says:

    Why on earth because unnah don’t own nuttin ya We need to close down alot of these foreign real estate pariahs running around here to stop this final sell off. Why don’t DOE declare some of these private beaches Heritage sites and put a stop to this theft.

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  18. Anonymous says:

    Why on earth is public money being spent on this? A disgrace.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Are you joking? Beaches and beach access if probably the most important issue facing the country. Without it the entire economy falls apart.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Did you read the government’s own report that most “public” beach access were blocked? Clearly a major problem.

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    • Anonymous says:

      I agree, this should NOT have been an issue in the first place if the previous governments had actually done what they were supposed to do.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Why on earth did the CIG allow private landowners money to be spent on blocking public beach access ? And still they do nothing and put their heads in the ever retreating sand. A disgrace of stellar proportions.

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    • Anonymous says:

      A DARTBOT speaks again.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Are the property owners going to get legal aid to defend themselves?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Maybe they should just comply with the law and allow public land to be public. If you read the decision, the judge has to make a substantive finding about the likelihood of success prior to granting aid. Land owners likely could not achieve the same finding.

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    • Anonymous says:

      @10:33 am – Jeez, you people that enjoy playing the Devil’s Advocate just for the heck of it. You’re not even making an intelligent argument.

      The “property owners” as you’ve called them would have nothing to “defend” if they’d simply obey the law. These “property owners” are creating confrontation and sowing discord by building fences and installing gates across legally established public rights of way. Why? Because they are greedy privileged bullies, trying to keep the public from sitting on “their” beaches. Ridiculous.

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      • Beach Cleaner says:

        Perhaps the property owners were sick of picking up used condoms and beer bottles from the public access and beaches adjacent to their properties?

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        • Anonymous says:

          @Beach Cleaner. And that’s justification for breaking the law??? Two wrongs don’t make a right genius.

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          • Beach Cleaner says:

            True enough and I am not saying they do. However, perhaps if there was not so much disrespect for other people’s property, there would not be an issue with public beach access.

        • Anonymous says:

          So get Government to enforce the litter law (something else they do not do).

    • Anonymous says:

      Apparently you are already being defended with public money, the Government’s Attorney General is being paid by public money and is fighting this case on behalf of private landowners

      No mi son….

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    • Fred the Piemaker says:

      The action is not against the landowners. It’s against the government for failing to do their job. The activists are seeking an instruction form the court to order the government to do their job.

    • Anonymous says:

      “Are the property owners going to get legal aid to defend themselves?”
      Dont think so Bro coz they are gonna lose anyway, lots of lawyers down the south sound way who may help and fanc their chances but getting past the electric gate to their front door isnt easy .Try the beach access round the back.

    • Anonymous says:

      Defend crimimal actions? And yes it’s a crime. Look it up… better yet..

      THE PUBLIC LANDS LAW, 2017
      (LAW 35 OF 2017)

      26. (1) No person shall, without lawful authority, obstruct or interfere with the
      right of a member of the public under this Law to have access to public land, to
      use public land or to exercise a public right of way over private land.
      (2) A person who contravenes subsection (1) commits an offence and is
      liable on summary conviction to a fine of five thousand dollars or to
      imprisonment for a term of six months, or to both, and shall in addition to such
      fine or imprisonment be liable to a fine of five hundred dollars per day for every
      day after conviction that such obstruction continues to persist.

  20. Anonymous says:

    This is an issue to which successive governments have turned a blind eye because they have been concerned about scaring off potential developers, and/or investors in condos. Hopefully, this action will correct all the situations where legal access paths to beaches have been illegally blocked by property owners.

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    • Anonymous says:

      In other words they have been facilitating breaches of the law? Anyone gain personally?

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      • Anonymous says:

        Yes, many civil servants and politicians.

      • Anonymous says:

        Hey, it’s what they do. In some countries, intentionally turning a blind eye is can be called corruption. Here it has been subsumed into Caymankind. Some of our greatest attractions include sun, sea, sand, and pretend laws.

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  21. V says:

    Honestly West Bay Road should have been set back another 100 meters 40 years ago.
    Plots similar to the Governors beach site should have been designated during that time as well. Not only on West Bay road but island wide.

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