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Canadian writer Thomas Michael is to remain behind bars for breaching the Cayman Islands' COVID-19 home-quarantine laws.

Cayman Islands: Canadian imprisoned for breaching COVID-19 law

Canadian screenwriter Thomas Michael is to remain behind bars for breaching the Cayman Islands’ COVID-19 home-quarantine laws, according to media and court documents.

The 42-year-old had appealed his 30-day prison sentence but Cayman’s Grand Court upheld his conviction.

Michael was arrested after he reportedly removed his wristband and went to the pool located at the residence where his family was supposed to be in quarantine.

According to reports, he was caught red-handed by a COVID-19 task force — Travel Cayman’s Mobile Compliance Team — during a routine visit to the location.

Michael had arrived in the Cayman Islands on March 20, 2021, to work on a film project. He was accompanied by his wife, two children, and their nanny. On his arrival, he was ordered to isolate for 10 days as is mandatory for all visitors.

During a check by the compliance team, during the third day of this 10-day period, reports are that members of the compliance team observed that Michael, his wife, nanny, and the two children were outside the house without their wristbands.

According to reports, on seeing the compliance officers, the adults, appearing frightened, went back inside the house and shut the door. They did not open the door for an extended period despite obviously hearing the officers knocking at the door.

Eventually, Michael opened the door, and this time, he was observed wearing the wristband.

The dad had initially denied breaking the COVID-19 rule. But while he later admitted to committing the violation in a letter, he explained that he had no intention of interacting with anyone else as he had no intentions of breaking the quarantine laws.

He was sentenced by Chief Magistrate Valdis Foldats on Friday, May 14, 2021, after he pleaded guilty to one count of failing to comply with Regulation 3(3)(2)(ii) of the Control of COVID-19 Regulations 2021.

Michael, however, immediately filed an appeal which was heard this week by Justice Cheryll Richards. He argued that the sentencing was excessive when he simply removed a wristband with no intention of breaking the law — to interact with anyone else — and the entire incident has cost him $150,000, as well as significant emotional and mental distress.

He had filed the appeal on four grounds: 1. Chief Magistrate Foldats was wrong to apply breach-of-curfew sentencing guidelines and the fact that he did not breach any curfew, or breached the 10-day quarantine. 2. the magistrate used a starting point in terms of the sentence which was too excessive. 3. Foldats was wrong to use the remarks from the appeals court case of Skylar Mack and Vanjae Ramjeet and apply it equally to his case. As such, the magistrate had no option to impose an excessive sentence of imprisonment which is an error by law. 4. He argued that the nanny, who was charged and acquitted and has since returned to Canada, has left his seriously ill wife as the only person to care for their children.

Responding to the appeal, Justice Richards made two main points:

1. the magistrate’s sentencing guideline was correct by law because the offence for which he was charged was distinct from the quarantine breach case.

“The application of the Breach of Curfew Guidelines and the Court of Appeal case of Mack & Ramjeet were correctly tailored to the offence for which the Appellant committed and that the fact of the unavailability of the nanny to care for Appellant’s wife, who is seriously ill, and his two children should not have the effect of reducing what was an otherwise appropriate sentence,” the prosecution said.

2. The sentencing was not excessive because the starting point for his sentence was six months in prison which is less than half of the starting point in the Mack and Ramjeet case.

Justice Richards added that Michael’s six-month sentence was further reduced by 75 percent to reflect the mitigating circumstances: he did not leave the residence, received his first COVID-19 vaccine prior to his arrival on the island and the second dose, when he arrived on the island. In addition, he pleaded guilty.