Prison rejects judge’s jail order in land dispute

| 06/06/2023 | 20 Comments
CoP Derek Byrne, Area Commander Inspector Lloyd Marriott and Wilson Mendoza, Cayman News Service
CoP Derek Byrne, Area Commander Inspector Lloyd Marriott and Wilson Mendoza

(CNS): A West Bay landowner involved in a long-running land access dispute with former Cabinet minister Mike Adam was given a seven-day jail sentence by a judge for contempt of court but never went to jail because prison management rejected the order in the absence of any criminal charges. Wilson Mendoza told CNS that his rights had been violated because he had done nothing wrong.

For the last five years, Mendoza and the Adam family have been involved in an acrimonious legal battle concerning access rights, which has even come to blows.

The Adam family claim prescriptive access rights to use Lissa Lane, which is on land owned by Mendoza. However, he does not accept that right, even though it is registered and has been in use for 40 years. But so far, the authorities and the courts have failed to resolve the matter.

In May 2022, as the case rolled on through the legal system, Mendoza was accused of breaching a court order not to block the Adam family’s access when stones were placed on the disputed road. At the time, Acting Justice Alistair Walters told Mendoza that ignoring a court order was very serious and handed down a seven-day jail sentence.

But in the latest twist in the saga, Mendoza contacted CNS this week and revealed that he had never served the sentence because neither the police nor the prison believed the order was lawful.

Around noon on Saturday, 25 June last year, Mendoza turned himself into the West Bay Police Station after a warrant was issued for his arrest based on the civil court order. Mendoza was taken to the Fairbanks detention centre. But, he said, the police raised concerns about the order sending him to jail for a week since no charges or criminal offences were listed on the documents.

Nevertheless, he was transferred to HMP Northward, but when he arrived, the director refused to admit him. He was told that they couldn’t accept him without a charge on the warrant.

“I was taken back to the detention centre and was released at about 2:15pm after an officer called the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for legal advice,” Mendoza told CNS. “I was able to avoid jail time because the court order stemmed from a civil matter, not criminal, as the DPP was not involved and there was no name or title of an offence charged in the underlying accusatory instrument of the arrest warrant.”

Mendoza said while he was keen for his name to be cleared in relation to the jail sentence he never served, he also wanted to go public about what has happened so people could understand the process. He said judges cannot send people to jail based on civil disputes without evidence of criminal wrongdoing, especially when the issues remain contested, as they were in this case since Mendoza still claims he did not break the order as alleged.

The DPP is responsible for all criminal proceedings in the Cayman Islands. Mendoza said he was never advised that he had been charged with a criminal offence or advised that a file was submitted to the DPP for a decision to charge in accordance with section 82 of the Police Law.

“The definition of contempt remains uncodified, along with the rest of the law as it relates to contempt of court,” he told CNS. “Contempt of court in a civil suit is generally not considered to be a criminal offence as it is governed entirely by common law principles. This type of contempt is more concerned with ensuring compliance than exacting punishment.”

He said no one should be punished for contempt unless a specific charge is made against them or the person has had a reasonable opportunity to answer and defend themselves. Mendoza believes that what happened to him was “an abuse of process” that could enable parties to bully and cajole their opponents in litigation and a breach of the Bill of Rights.

He argued that a judge must determine the cases before him and not be distracted “by desire for popularity or fear of criticism and must hear a case on the evidence and in accordance with the principles of natural justice”.

Mendoza said the police and prison officers were all very polite and professional when dealing with him and even apologised to him when they sent him home. But he believes the arrest was unwarranted and unlawful because the judge made an error of law, an error regarding the facts and misused his discretion.

He said he was still “intentionally imprisoned without legal authority, justification, or without my permission due to errors by a judicial officer… and an inappropriate warrant. It caused me to be confined and restrained so as to prevent me from exercising my right to leave the WBPS and detention centre.”

When a person is improperly imprisoned, they could be entitled to damages as compensation for the infringement upon their liberty, dignity or reputation, and any mental suffering, regardless of the length of time for which they have been detained.

“I believe my rights and freedoms outlined in the Constitution have been breached or violated,” Mendoza said. “I’m innocent of any wrongdoing. I have not answered criminal charges in a trial. No charges were ever brought against me for breaching the injunction or court order as alleged. I was at no time charged with any offence.”

The dispute between Mendoza and Adam has expanded over the years and now involves other neighbours and the National Roads Authority. In the latest court case, the NRA won a partial victory to make Lissa Lane an official public road. Mendoza and other owners have appealed the acquisition of some of their land to make the road, claiming that the government had not followed due process.

The dispute has rolled on partially because of the ambiguity surrounding access rights and the failure of the authorities in several cases to enforce the law or properly register prescriptive rights.

As the Cayman Islands become more populated and land and property are increasingly acquired by expatriate residents and overseas owners, the issue of Cayman’s hearsay approach to access is proving inadequate to protect historic rights of way to the beach or, as in this case, a family’s own home.

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Comments (20)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Don’t Stop The Carnival!

  2. Anonymous says:

    another fine mess brought to you by cig and the civil service.

  3. Shook says:

    WHAT?! In today’s episode of only in Cayman. What power do judges have then to reside over their court rooms? Can we get a comment from the DPP, Chief Justice, Governor’s Office…. someone?! Who died and made the Director of Prisons king?

  4. Anonymous says:

    What the actual f***. People break court orders without consequence in the Cayman Islands every single day. That’s the civil litigation culture the court has itself created over many years by being so laissez faire. If that’s changing, so much for the better, but there has to be consistency in approach otherwise it is unfair. They went from 0 to 100mph on this guy, but still go at 0mph on everyone else breaking court orders, how does that make sense?

    • Anonymous says:

      Speaking of which, wasn’t DART supposed to be paying $10,000 a day fine for leaving the Hyatt in a derelict state? What would that fine amount to today with compounding interest? How did such an unapologetically rogue corporate actor remain eligible to bid on any government contract? Or be gifted public’s crown government lands through backroom Cabinet deals? We all know the answer.

  5. Candid says:

    At common law, a judge has a right to imprison for contempt committed “in the face of the court”. No need for a statute.
    English common law applies in Cayman. All the law requires is that the person be given a chance to be heard first as to why he disobeyed the court order. This man was given a chance and the court found that he had no excuse. If he had been Caymanian, he would have been locked up.

    • Anonymous says:

      I find this bit of the story confusing. Did he actually have a hearing specifically on whether there was contempt or not?

  6. Anonymous says:

    Apparently adherence to common law is a rarity in Cayman. What the hell happened to our standards? Who, and what, are we allowing to take control?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Looks like three more KCs that we the people will have to foot the bill for. The Chief Justice has no choice but to take the Chief of Police and the Director of Prisons to court for failing to carry out a directive.

    It would also be unfair for the Chief Justice to bring a case against someone in his own court, so I guess it will be a two month holiday in jolly old England for all involved.

    • Anonymous says:

      They are in contempt, and should be imprisoned. Common law is good law in Cayman.

      • Wilson Mendoza says:

        (2020 Revision)

        Lawful confinement and custody

        11A. (1) A person, whether sentenced to imprisonment or committed to prison for any other reason, may only be lawfully confined in any prison on production of an appropriate warrant or other legal instrument addressed to the Director.

        THE END

        • Just sayin.. says:

          Watch the key word “may”, it is “suggestive”. There is a distinct difference when compared to the word “Shall” which is “absolute”. You “may” have just opened the door on yourself.

        • Anonymous says:

          What was wrong with the warrant they had though? That’s what I don’t get. I’m confused about whether (a) there was any actual committal hearing or (b) what was defective about the warrant.

    • Wilson Mendoza says:

      Straight from a horse’s mouth…

      See Segoes Servs. Ltd. v. Kaweske (Grand Ct.), 2006 CILR N 34, Anthony Smellie CJ

      “If penal notice attached to court’s order, criminal standard of proof required of alleged breach—benefit of doubt to be given to defendant concerning alleged but unproved breaches.”

      See Telesystem Intl. Wireless Inc. v. CVC/Opportunity Equity Partners L.P. (Grand Ct.), 2002 CILR 96, Anthony Smellie CJ

      “Proof required to criminal standard that contemnor breached clear and unambiguous court order with actual knowledge of its precise terms—order must contain full details of acts mandated or prohibited without need to refer to other documents or circumstances.”

      Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi & Bros. Co. v. Saad Invs. Co. Ltd. (C.A.), 2010 (2) CILR 266, Chadwick, P., Forte and Mottley, JJ.A

      “No contempt if in breach of court order on one possible construction of order but not on another—duty and breach to be clear and unambiguous “beyond all question.”

      People will always deny the truth, regardless of how you present the facts and evidence.

      THE END

      • George R. Ebanks, Newlands. says:

        Sounds like you need to go back to law school.

      • Anonymous says:

        Wilson, your knowledge of Common Law, and Prescriptive Rights, fail you. You are not in Kansas. Our systems and expectations are different.


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