28 October 2021 | News

The Ombudsman invites applications for the below positions

Click the below position for details:

 

Please submit completed application form together with your resume to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by November 12, 2021.

15 October 2021 | News

PRESS RELEASE

Ombudsman Issues Data Protection Guidance to Employers on Covid Vaccination Requirements 

The Office of the Ombudsman has issued general guidance on data protection issues Cayman employers must consider before recording employees’ COVID-19 vaccination status. The guidance is issued in light of the recently approved vaccination requirements regarding work permit applications and renewals in the Cayman Islands.

The guidance will also be useful for companies that are considering requesting vaccination information from Caymanian and non-Caymanian permanent resident employees, beyond what is required by the recent amendments to the Immigration (Transition) Act.

“Although the government is now requiring vaccination information to be submitted prior to the grant or renewal of a work permit, the collection of an employee’s vaccination status by a government agency or a private sector employer must comply with the requirements of the DPA,” Ombudsman Sandy Hermiston said.

The Ombudsman advises businesses to produce a written policy stating how employees’ vaccination checks will be done, and for what purpose. Companies cannot use this information for “incompatible purposes” – meaning purposes other than those for which it was collected. Any processing of personal data must be justified under the DPA, particularly if its use may have negative consequences for employees.

“If you cannot specify your use for this information and are recording it ‘just in case’, or if you can achieve your goal without collecting this data, it is unlikely that you will be able to justify it under the Act,” Ms. Hermiston added.

The DPA requires employers to have a legal basis to collect and process personal data, including information on their employees’ vaccination status. An individual’s vaccination status is classified as ‘sensitive personal data’, given that it is medical data. This means that additional measures must be taken to protect the use of this data.

Businesses and organizations must ensure that they only collect the minimum amount of personal data necessary, hold it only for as long as is needed for the initial purpose, and ensure that it is held securely, with access granted only to those who need to see it. This applies to government-mandated data collection as well as any additional private sector employment requirements.

A copy of the Guidance can be found here: https://ombudsman.ky/images/pdf/pol_guide/DP_Guidance_-_Employee_Vaccination_Status_Oct_2021.pdf

Anyone with questions about Cayman’s Data Protection Act should go to our website www.ombudsman.ky for further information. Data protection complaints can be made to the Ombudsman’s office at 946-6283 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  

28 September 2021 | News

PRESS RELEASE - FOI: It’s yours, just ask!

Since the implementation of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act in the Cayman Islands, the government has received more than 6,500 open records requests – and has disclosed public information in roughly half of those cases.

In 2020, some of those disclosures included information on duty concessions, Labour Tribunal and Appeals Tribunal decisions, land survey files, records concerning residency and employment rights certificates for same-sex couples, exam results, the cost of John Gray High, government’s compliance with the National Pension Act, and more.   

The Office of the Ombudsman believes there is reason to celebrate as we mark International Right to Know Day this Tuesday, 28 September. The FOI Act took effect in Cayman on 5 January 2009, granting individuals the legal right to request information held by public sector entities.

Since then, hundreds of FOI requests have been made each year leading to hundreds of disclosures of public records – either in full or in part. Last year as the nation grappled with the pandemic we saw the lowest number of open records requests since the Act came into effect, with 230 FOI requests made of which 61% were disclosed in full or in part.

“As time has gone on, we believe more and more government agencies are making information available to the public proactively, reducing the need for FOI requests,” said Ombudsman Sandy Hermiston. “This was one of the original goals set out in enacting right-to-know legislation more than a decade ago.”

Making an FOI request does not guarantee that the records sought will be disclosed if they fall under one of the Act’s exemptions. In just under 40% of requests made last year, exemptions were claimed or another reason was applied to deny access. In general, the FOI Act ensures that requests must receive a government response within 30 days.

“Request handling times have remained stable since last year, but many previous years saw quicker responses from the government”, said Deputy Ombudsman Jan Liebaers. “We are looking forward to improvements being made to the government’s FOI tracking system, which should give us more specific data next year”.

For more information about FOI in the Cayman Islands, please see the report attached to this press release, and our website: https://ombudsman.ky/foi. Individuals wishing to appeal FOI decisions to the Ombudsman may contact our office at 946-6283 or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

23 September 2021 | News

PRESS RELEASE

An applicant under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act sought records relating to fee, duty and tax waivers negotiated between the government and several private developers dating from 2017.  

The Ministry of Finance released a significant number of records in redacted form to the applicant before and during the appeal process. The Ombudsman found that Cabinet and Caucus papers containing “opinions, advice or recommendations… prepared for or arising in the course of proceedings of the Cabinet” were appropriately withheld as were records containing personal information and information exempted from disclosure by other legislation.

The Ombudsman ordered the majority of the documents under review, detailing the concessions granted by government for major development projects, to be released to the applicant within 30 days.  

The ministry included documents that were outside the scope of the information request; those that were created prior to 2017 or that involved agreements between private companies only. This caused additional delays as the Ombudsman had to sort out which documents were appropriate to be included and which were not. Time was also spent during the government’s internal FOI process consulting with third party commercial stakeholders (the development companies) over information that was not personal data. A request for personal data would trigger the requirement to consult with third parties under the FOI regulations, but those regulations do not apply to commercial data.

“Public authorities are free to consult with whomever they wish, but there is no provision to delay responses beyond the normal timelines for consultation with commercial entities,” the Ombudsman wrote in the hearing decision.  

There also appeared to be a general misunderstanding of FOI principles in that the ministry applied some exemptions to information of certain developers, but not to similar information of others. Still other records were said to be exempted because the applicant had not demonstrated the “need” to obtain them. The FOI Act, established under the Cayman Islands Constitution Order, 2009, gives applicants the legal right to request access to information without considering who is making the request or why they are seeking those details.

The full text of the decision may be found here: : https://ombudsman.ky/images/pdf/decisions/FOI_Decisions/Hearing_88-202100094_Min_Finance.pdf

Any member of the public wishing to submit an appeal of a government decision on an FOI request may phone the Ombudsman at 946-6283 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For more information about Cayman’s FOI Law, please see our website at www.ombudsman.ky.

21 July 2021 | News

PRESS RELEASE - Ombudsman: Police use of force protected suspect’s life, preserved evidence

A complainant alleged that he was grabbed by the throat, thrown onto a bed in his home and handcuffed by Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) officers who were in the process of executing a search warrant. The complainant asserted this conduct represented an unreasonable use of force by RCIPS officers.  

Ombudsman investigators established that the officers had obtained a lawful warrant for the search. During the search, a police officer saw the complainant picking up a small plate holding an amount of white substance the officer believed was cocaine. RCIPS officers intervened to prevent the complainant from swallowing the substance. The complainant resisted the officers and continued to try to swallow the substance.

Following the struggle, the complainant was taken to hospital and it was determined he had suffered no serious injuries from the incident.  

Section 153 of the Police Act allows an officer to use as much force as is reasonably necessary to effect an arrest. In doing so, an officer must have regard to the nature and gravity of the threat, as well as the potential for adverse consequences resulting from the use of force. In this case, it took a considerable amount of effort from RCIPS officers to restrain the complainant to prevent him from swallowing the substance and the Ombudsman found it was reasonable for the officers to believe the complainant would have done so, if not impeded.   

The Ombudsman accepted the officers’ statements that they were concerned about the complainant’s health and safety and that they believed he was attempting to swallow something that appeared to be cocaine. The Ombudsman found that, if the officers had not restrained the complainant, he would likely have ingested the substance which was subsequently identified to be cocaine. The Ombudsman found that the force used was necessary and reasonable in these circumstances.

 

For more information about our police complaints handling process and how to make a complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman, please see our website at www.ombudsman.ky, call us at 946-6283 or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

14 July 2021 | News

Annual report for 2020 released 

 

The Office of the Ombudsman’s annual report for 2020 was made public in Parliament today, 14 July 2021.   

During 2020, our office fielded a total of 332 enquiries from members of the public, opened 231 cases for either investigation or informal resolution and resolved 210 cases. By way of comparison, we opened 30 more cases overall during 2020 than in 2019, despite the pandemic and government lockdown during the second quarter.  

A copy of the full report can be found at the following link: https://ombudsman.ky/images/pdf/Office_of_the_Ombudsman_2020_Annual_Report.pdf  

A few areas from the report are highlighted below:  

Data Protection: The largest area of case increases involved Cayman’s Data Protection Act. There were 87 data breaches reported in 2020 and the number of data protection complaints doubled during 2020, compared to 2019. The Ombudsman issued her first enforcement order under the Act, which required the Registrar of Companies to immediately cease gathering and processing personal data of non-registrable persons because there was no legal basis for its blanket approach. The Ombudsman also issued a number of information orders directing both public and private sector entities to provide documents as part of data protection investigations, because the entities were not responding to requests in a timely manner.   

Freedom of Information:  The Ombudsman issued several important decisions regarding government records in 2020. In addition to many FOI appeals that were resolved informally, the Ombudsman issued eight (8) written decisions in 2020.  We also noted a trend since 2017 where a greater number of FOI hearing decisions are being issued by the Ombudsman. Deputy Ombudsman Jan Liebaers recently noted “since September 2017, when the Office of the Ombudsman officially opened, through to December 2020, the Ombudsman issued 26 hearing decisions”. In contrast during the almost nine years between January 2009 and August 2017, there were 54 hearing decisions issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office.   

Maladministration: While the number of maladministration complaints remained about the same from year-to-year, there was a significant increase in the number of informal resolutions of maladministration complaints during 2020 – these are complaints by the public against poor or inefficient government service. Our office managed to resolve 18 complaints informally in 2020, compared to just seven (7) in 2019.   In addition, the office launched four “own motion” investigations which will be published later this year, one of which is a joint investigation under the Data Protection Act. 

“We’ve found that public officials are cooperating to resolve more complaints, meaning that time-consuming investigations are needed less to address people’s problems,” said Ombudsman Sandy Hermiston. “However, we are still seeing too many complaints about government delay and failure to respond to customers.”   

Our office continues to work with government entities to improve and strengthen internal complaints procedures, as well as to ensure the civil service has appropriate public policies in place to underpin lawful and fair administrative actions in day-to-day operation.  

Police Complaints: Complaints concerning police conduct made by members of the public rose from 33 recorded in 2019 to 52 last year. Amid this increase, our office saw positive strides by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service in incorporating public complaints against officers’ conduct into its daily work. However, we have identified a continuing need for RCIPS officers to treat people with respect.  

“Too many of our police-related complaints concern simple rudeness or unprofessional conduct, even in cases where the officer has done everything procedurally “by the book”, said Ombudsman Sandy Hermiston. “Police officers can still enforce our laws while acting in a professional and cordial manner and we will hold them to that standard.”    

Whistleblower Protection: The number of reports in this area remained small during 2020. There were six (6) whistleblower reports during 2020, compared with just two (2) in 2019. Our investigators have reported that people seem reluctant to make a protected disclosure when they learn that the Whistleblower Protection Act does not prevent them from being fired from their jobs. The legislation instead provides a remedy only after an employer takes detrimental action against the employee. We intend to make recommendations to our Parliamentary committee regarding this subject.   

The Office of the Ombudsman deals with public sector maladministration complaints, police misconduct complaints, whistleblower complaints, data protection queries and complaints and freedom of information appeals. For more information in any of these areas, please go to our website at www.ombudsman.ky or call us on 946-6283. Queries and complaints can also be sent to our email address at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.