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News Article
Bahamian native, Lena Mckinney Rahming In Family Dispute
Bahamian native, Lena Mckinney Rahming In Family Dispute

A well-connected, Bahamian native, Boynton Beach woman known as Ms. Lena spent her last 25 years living with a man her family never knew to be her husband.

Yet when Lena Rahming died in February 2011 at 66, Willie Edward Williams told the hospital he was. Then he told the funeral home the same thing, the family says. He continued living in Rahming's Delray Beach house and acquired her $400,000 estate.

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Event
FREE Legal Clinc
FREE Legal Clinc

Saturday 14th September 2013  9:00 AM

The point of this day in office/community service is to give you the opportunity to sit and speak with an attorney for free while you get a better understanding of the various issues and areas of law listed on the flyer. For those of you that indicated that you are not in New Providence, please feel free to inbox your concerns/issues. If you'd like for us to review your rental agreements, mortgages, court summons, wills, land papers, divorce documents etc... please bring them with you on Saturday. If someone is suing you or if you are suing someone, please bring whatever you have and we'll review it for you. *When: Saturday, September 14, 2013 *Where: Learned Friends Law Chambers, Carmichael Road opposite Turtle Drive [across from Checker's Cafe]. *Time: 9:00 am-12:00 pm *Contacts: Telephone: 361-2326 Online: www.learnedfriends.biz If Carmichael is too far for you, another law firm will be doing their share of community service in the 'EAST' in a couple of weeks. Feel free to attend as we all try to make time to assist in our communities via these FREE LEGAL CLINICS!


News Article
Prince Hepburn appeal delayed

The appeal launched by contractor Prince Hepburn against his conviction for the murder of his mistress won't be heard until June.
Attorney Nathan Smith yesterday asked the court for an adjournment, claiming that his boss, Murrio Ducille, had not yet received the court transcripts.
Court of Appeal President Anita Allen questioned how this could be since the court had the transcripts since February 12.
The matter has been adjourned to June 18.
Hepburn was sentenced to 60 years in prison for the hacking death of Nellie Mae Brown-Cox between April 6 and 7, 2011.
Prosecutors alleged that Hepburn flew into a jealous rage after he learned that she was seeing someone else, prosecutors said.
Hepburn, 51, had left his wife and children for Brown-Cox, who was also married. They had planned to marry after divorcing their spouses.
In passing sentence, Justice Indra Charles said that Hepburn, who had no prior brushes with the law, could have walked away in the same manner that he left his wife and children.
According to the evidence, Hepburn confronted Brown-Cox about his rival and she brushed him off.
That's when he launched into a violent rage, chopping Brown-Cox in the head, arms and torso with two cutlasses.
Police found the cutlasses with the words "You're next, George Sawyer" and "This is what cheaters get" engraved on them at the crime scene in South Beach.
Hepburn told a police officer at the scene that he'd spent over $1 million on Brown-Cox, left his wife and children for her and she cheated on him.

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News Article
Only through failing did I ultimately succeed

John Bain is the managing director of John S. Bain Chartered Forensic Accountants, a boutique firm specializing in investigative reporting, fraud, asset recovery and bankruptcy proceedings.  According to the International Association of Asset Recovery, Bain is among the first 40 candidates worldwide to be certified as a specialist in this area.
 
Guardian Business: What is the biggest challenge facing your business or sector? What measures need to be taken in The Bahamas to solve it?

John: I practice as a forensic accountant. The major challenge I face is that most people - even professionals - don't know what a forensic accountant is. In a nutshell, we assist attorneys, individuals and companies involved in civil litigation matters that involve money. We may have to trace accounts to settle partnership disputes, land issues, insolvency or determine legitimacy of a creditor's claim. The official definition of forensic accounting given by the Forensic Accounting Academy is: "The art and science of investigating people and money."
The second challenge is the delays in the court system and judges being unaware of the value of our services. The recent appointment of former civil litigators to the Supreme Court has helped tremendously because we now have persons who not only understand what we do, but appreciate the value we add to ruling on civil matters.  A further strengthening of the civil division of the bench would assist us.
 
GB: How has your business or sector changed since the financial crisis?

John: I am almost always involved in contentious issues. My services are only called upon in disputes, whether it is a divorce matter and I am appointed to verify the assets and income of one of the parties, or whether a company is in trouble and requires restructuring or the appointment of a receiver. In tough economic times, minimizing fraud becomes even more important. Disputing parties want to know the truth about previous financial transactions. Recently, we had inquiries on elder abuse (financially) where trustees and others appointed to fiduciary relationships with elderly persons have been systematically ripping them off by using their assets in ways that they were not contracted to do.
 
GB: Can you describe a life experience that changed how you approach your work today?

John: I am a qualified accountant and I have been fortunate enough to have multiple certifications. It was not always this way. I was always a good student, but the first time I took an accounting class at the College of The Bahamas, my Alma Matter, I got an "F" grade.  This was shocking because this was the first time I ever failed a class. So I was determined to do it again and get an A. I repeated the class, studied  hard, attended all lectures and when the term ended, I got a "D" grade. I had met my match. This changed how I approach my work today.  That was the beginning of my track to master the subject of accounting.
This was a humbling experience. I had to start from scratch and get to know a topic inside and out in order to pursue one of the most difficult paths to becoming a Chartered Accountant. The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) examinations based in the UK is known to be one of the most difficult accounting examinations in the world and they consistently have the lowest pass rate, as low as 2 percent for first attempts and about 30 percent overall, including repeats. Passing the ACCA examinations gave me the confidence to take and pass other international certifications.
I use the same approach in passing those exams in my approach to my work. I put in long hours and I am thorough and detailed when constructing and writing my Forensic Reports.
 
GB: What are you currently reading?

John: I am reading "How Math Explains the World" by Professor James D. Stein. I am simultaneously reading "Forensic Analytics" by Professor Mark J. Nigrini. The second book goes deeply into Bedford's Law, a mathematical system of interpreting numbers, especially when looking for fraud. It's hardly bedtime reading for most but I love the absoluteness of math.
 
GB: Has the high cost of energy hurt your business? What solutions have you initiated or considered to combat it?

John: The high cost of energy has not only increased the cost of my business, but also the businesses of my clients who continually try to negotiate fee reductions. The solutions to this problem are not rocket science. We currently depend on fossil fuel for energy. We need an energy solution that is dependent on several alternatives, including solar, ocean, wind or any other alternative forms of energy available.  We have been too slow to react and too comfortable doing things the way they have always been done.
 
GB: If you could change one thing concerning business in The Bahamas, what would it be?

John: We are not preparing our children for tomorrow's world. I believe the study of computer science is just as important as mathematics and English and should be a mandatory part of every school curriculum, starting at the earliest grades. Although there are computers in classrooms or in most school labs now,  they are not used effectively. Computer science is not a luxury; it is essential knowledge for the 21st century.
 
GB: What keeps you grounded? Do you have any major interests other than work?

John: My family keeps me grounded. Having young children means that I must do what I can to remain healthy for their sakes.
In addition to working full time and teaching part time, I am also a member of the board of directors of  The Ranfurly Homes For Children. We have some real challenges there, so my extra time is dedicated to improving the home and the lives of our children there.
 
GB: What should young businesses keep in mind in this current economic climate to survive?

John: A lot of businesses are operated as petty shops where the owners do not separate their personal lives from that of their business. We should realize that the business is a separate entity. We should capture our costs and record them, as well as our income. There are low cost accounting systems that can be easily implemented. The devil is in the details when it comes to business.
 

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News Article
Crown won't seek hanging for killer

Now that a 12-member jury has convicted Prince Hepburn of the April 2011 murder of his girlfriend Nellie Mae Brown-Cox, he will await his sentencing on May 22, but prosecutors will not seek the death penalty. The jury yesterday found Hepburn guilty of murder after nearly an hour and a half of deliberation.
The conviction came almost two years after Brown-Cox, the victim of a cutlass attack, was found lying in a pool of blood in her South Beach apartment.
Hepburn -- who wore blue jeans and a blue sweater -- showed no visible reaction after the verdict was read. He was led out of court handcuffed and shackled at the feet.
Several members of Brown-Cox's family, including her estranged husband, were in the court for the verdict, However, they did not speak to the press about the verdict.
Defense attorney Murrio Ducille said he was taken aback by the murder conviction and questioned if the jury weighed the evidence in the case before reaching a verdict.
He vowed to appeal the verdict after the Easter holidays.
"It was not an easy case," Ducille told reporters. "And they [the jury] came back in such a short time it meant that they had predetermined the case and came back with their minds made up.
"Of course, it does not end here. The system eventually will work. Where there are slip-ups in the system there is always somewhere else where it can be taken care of."
Ducille said the jury did not listen to evidence given by psychiatrist Dr. Michael Neville, an expert witness, who testified that Hepburn had a depressive illness and therefore diminished responsibly for his actions.
Ducille said the prosecution did not disprove that Hepburn had a temporary psychotic break, brought on after he found out his girlfriend was cheating on him, which led to the cutlass attack on Brown-Cox.
"The defense had not come to say that he was totally exonerated," Ducille said. "He was partially responsible, but his responsibility was predicated on his diminished responsibility based on the circumstances of the case and nothing else.
"So based on all of those facts the jury obviously ignored the evidence that had been led in court."
The jury had the options of convicting Hepburn on a charge of murder, manslaughter due to diminished responsibility, or to acquit.
During his closing argument, Ducille told the jury that his client loved the victim very much and was still tormented over his attack on Brown-Cox.
He said while Hepburn bore some responsibility for his actions the prosecution did not meet its burden of proof for the case. However, prosecutor Franklyn Williams told the jury that Hepburn "obsessively tracked and stalked" Brown-Cox in the two weeks before her murder.
He also discounted the conclusions found by Neville and added that the doctor only spent three and a half hours with the defendant before making his conclusions on his mental state.
Williams argued that Hepburn killed his girlfriend because he did not want anyone else to have her if he could not.
Williams refused an interview after the verdict, but confirmed he would not seek the death penalty in the case.
Police found Brown-Cox's body on the kitchen floor of an apartment in South Beach, lying in a pool of blood on April 7, 2011. Police believe she died between April 6 and 7.
She had severe wounds across her body and the fingers on her right hand were missing.
Hepburn and Brown-Cox, who dated for five years, had plans to marry after their divorces to their respective spouses were finalized, the court heard earlier this week.
Justice Indra Charles has ordered a psychiatric evaluation and social inquiry report to be submitted to the court by April 30.

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News Article
Family matters overwhelm courts

With more than 765 family cases on the Supreme Court calendar for 2012 and only one judge exclusively hearing civil matters in New Providence,
a "tremendous" backlog of cases is overwhelming an already burdened justice system, according to Chief Magistrate Roger Gomez.
The breakdown revealed the majority of matters were uncontested divorces, which accounted for 435 of those cases.
There were 60 contested divorces; 20 adoption applications and five applications under the Mental Health Act, according to statistics provided

by the Family Court System Committee.
Retired Justice Rubie Nottage, head of the committee, said the court's calendar is booked until March 2013, meaning a significant portion of those cases can not be heard before April.
"That is the delay time for hearing of a contested divorce because of the tremendous workload that there appears to be in the family division," Nottage said.
Gomez told The Nassau Guardian while criminal cases, particularly murder, often take months before they are heard in the lower courts, it is crucial for certain family matters to be processed quickly.
"We have to have these cases decided in a very swift manner," he said. "For example, if a wife is being battered, we can't tell her to come back to court in three months.
"That is what is happening now because the court is so overbooked. We have one magistrate doing all of the cases in the Magistrate Courts for families."
In one Magistrate's Court alone, 3,217 family matters were heard between January and December of this year.
Those cases ranged from child support, child custody, order for binding over to keep the peace and legal separation, Nottage said.
Asked what portion of those cases is related to violence, Nottage said that data was not available.
She said the committee has proposed several measures, including appointing a statistician to compile the information and make it available for processing.
"We are proposing that someone be assigned to the court...so we can begin to record that kind of information, which is vitally important to understanding the family division," she said.
Even as officials in the executive and the judiciary try to address a problem that has plagued both division of the justice system, the family cases continue to pile up.
On Wednesday, the committee presented a detailed action plan to Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson for a new 18,000 square foot Family Court complex to be established on the second floor of Town Centre Mall, Tonique Williams-Darling Highway.
Maynard-Gibson said she will review the report and present it to Cabinet before the end of the year.
However, with an already high government deficit and limited capital expenditure the facility may not become a reality anytime soon.
"We want this family court because in the family courts, as they exist now, those judges hear civil matters as well as criminal matters and that would [allow] those cases to be heard much more regularly," Gomez added.

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Business Category

News Article
Pineridge holds Legal Aid Clinic

Freeport, The Bahamas - Continuing his mandate to better the
lives of the Pineridge Constituents, the Hon. J. Kwasi Thompson, Member
of Parliament for Pineridge  on Saturday past hosted a Legal Aid
Clinic for residence of the Sunset Subdivision and Back-of-Town Communities.

Attorneys David Thompson, Neville WIlchcombe
and Mr. Thompson himself provided FREE Legal Advice in a myriad of areas
including Civil Matters, Divorce and Wills. As a matter of fact, Last
Will and Testaments were drawn up on site...

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News Article
The will and the modern Bahamian family

The composition of the modern Bahamian family is a stark contrast to the Bahamian family of yesteryear. Traditionally, this family was described as "nuclear" and consisted of a mother, father and their children. Today, the average Bahamian household would include at least one of the following: a divorced spouse and/or stepchildren, a common law relationship or a single parent/child relationship.
For reasons appearing below, it is important to examine, even if briefly, the importance of preparing a will for the new model of Bahamian families.
Importance and formalities of a Bahamian will
A will is the document that sets out in writing a person's intention as to the distribution of assets on his/her death. A will "speaks" beyond the grave.
In order for a Bahamian will to be probated in The Bahamas, the will must: (i) be in writing; (ii) be signed by the deceased person; (iii) be signed by and in the presence of two independent witnesses (who are also in each other's presence at the time of signing); (iv) appoint an executor who is of sound mind and is at least 18 years old.
A new will should be executed after any significant life event, such as a death of a spouse, separation, divorce or remarriage.
Inheritance laws of The Bahamas
The Inheritance Act of The Bahamas 2002 ("the act"), section 4, sets out what happens when a person dies without a will, or with a will that does not comply with the formalities set out above.
If a person dies without a valid will and leaves:
o A spouse only - the spouse takes the entire estate;
o A spouse and child(ren) - the spouse gets one half and the children share the remaining half;
o Child(ren) only - the child(ren) take(s) everything;
o No spouse, no child(ren) - the grandchild(ren) of the deceased person take the entire estate;
o No spouse, no child(ren), no grandchild(ren) - the parents of the deceased person take the entire estate.
Please note that while this article examines a few of the survivor case scenarios, section 4 of the act should be referred to for more family scenarios.
Modern families and the Inheritance Act
Again, it should be clearly stated and understood that the terms of a valid will shall take precedence over the provisions of the Inheritance Act. This is why a deceased person's wishes should be clearly and properly laid out in a will.
As it relates to the importance of executing a will, below, I briefly highlight the five most common inheritance case scenarios encountered in practice, which clearly demonstrate the importance of making a proper will:
o I am currently a single mother, with minor children. What will happen to my home (purchased in my name only) if I get married and then die without a will, leaving my husband and my children?
If you die without a will, your husband will get 50 percent of the home (less any unsatisfied mortgages thereon) and your children will get 50 percent. If the children are minors, their legal guardian(s) - in most cases the surviving parent - will be responsible for managing their interest in the house until they have attained the age of majority.
o I am a divorced father of two who recently remarried. My new wife also has a child from a previous relationship. What will happen to the property currently owned by me if I die without a will?
If you die without a will, your current wife will take 50 percent of your estate and 50 percent will belong to your children. A stepchild is not considered your child for the purposes of the Inheritance Act unless the child is legally adopted by you.
o I am a middle-aged man with adult children from my first marriage. My first wife died and I have now married a middle-aged woman who also has adult children. Our matrimonial home is owned by me. Will her children have any right to my house? Will my adult children be able to evict my wife from my home on my death, if I die without a will?
If the property is held in your name only, your wife, under the provisions of the Inheritance Act, will acquire a 50 percent interest and your children will be entitled to the remaining 50 percent. Your new wife's children would not normally have an interest in your home. However, please note that once your estate has been properly administered, your wife will be able to distribute her interest in your home to her beneficiaries, who in all likelihood will include her adult children.
Section 24 of the act provides your widow protection from eviction. Under this section, your widow would have a right to occupy the residence enjoyed as the matrimonial home at the time of your death until she dies, remarries or otherwise makes any agreement with your children to surrender her interest. However, also note that this section allows for any person or entity with an interest in the matrimonial home, which is adversely affected by your widow's occupation, to make application to the court for the relief or buyout of her interest.
o I have been in a common law relationship with a man for 20 years. He is still legally married as he never obtained a divorce from his wife. We have acquired substantial assets together. Some are in his name only. What will happen if he dies without a will?
Simply put, the Inheritance Act does not recognize common law relationships. Therefore, any property owned by him solely would belong to his estate, which will not include you. If he is married and never formally divorced, his wife would take 50 percent and his surviving children (including his children with you or any other woman) would share the other 50 percent equally. Any children claiming to have been fathered by him, would need to provide proof of paternity such as a birth certificate, affidavit of birth or any other evidence of paternity as accepted by the court. You would acquire 100 percent of any assets you both owned as joint tenants. But, you would probably have to seek court assistance for any asset contributed to by you, but where your name does not appear on the title deed(s) to the asset.
o I believe that my husband may have children outside of our marriage, what will happen to the assets owned in his name solely?
If he dies without a will, you would take 50 percent and his surviving children would take 50 percent of his estate. This would also include children fathered outside your marriage. The child claiming to be your husband's would need to provide evidence that your husband was his/her father. In most instances, this would mean by presenting a birth certificate or affidavit of birth which confirms your husband as the father. There are certain limited cases where other forms of evidence may be allowed by the court in trying to prove paternity of the child, but you should consult an attorney to discuss your options.
These are only a few examples of inheritance issues that face the modern Bahamian family, but they do demonstrate the importance of executing a will. If you have any questions concerning the scenarios outlined above, or obtaining a will or amending a current will, please consult a qualified Bahamian attorney to obtain advice specific to your family's needs and circumstances.
o This article does not constitute legal advice. If you need advice on the issues raised in this article or otherwise, you should consult a qualified attorney. Carlene Farquharson has been with the law firm of Alexiou, Knowles & Co. since October 2006. She is currently the resident attorney in the firm's office in Marsh Harbour, Abaco. Her areas of practice are conveyancing, estates/probate, company and compliance/regulatory procedures. She holds a bachelor's degree in business administration from Acadia University, Canada; a master's degree in legal studies from the University of Bristol, England; a certificate in bar vocational studies from the University of the West of England and an international diploma in money laundering and compliance procedures from the University of Manchester, England (in conjunction with the Bahamas institute of Financial Services).

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News Article
IS IT OKAY TO SNOOP

By JEFFARAH GIBSON

Tribune Features Writer

LEON Walker thought he was only validating his suspicions of his wife's affair when he went through her e-mails. But little did he know the possibility of facing five years in prison for snooping existed.

In this potential precedent-setting case which broke late last year, the Michigan man who is also a computer technician is being charged with felony misuse of a computer. Prosecutors in the case argue that Walker illegally hacked into his wife's computer after she filed for divorce.

However, he claims it was relatively easy to get the password to her account because she kept it in book next to her computer. His attorney said claims made b ...

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News Article
Murder was 'out of character' for Prince Hepburn

Defense attorney Murrio Ducille rested his case on behalf of accused murderer Prince Hepburn yesterday after calling three character witnesses who all said committing murder was not in his character.
Hepburn is accused of killing his girlfriend Nellie Mae Brown-Cox, a charity worker, between April 6 and April 7, 2011.
Ducille and prosecutor Franklyn Williams are expected to make closing arguments to the 12-member jury this morning.
Supreme Court Justice Indra Charles will then give her summation.
The jury will then deliberate and could return a verdict as early as today.
Retired Assistant Commissioner of Police Willard Cunningham Sr. was the defense's first witness yesterday.
Cunningham, who left the police force in October 2011 after a 40-year career, said he knew the defendant for more than 20 years.
He described Hepburn as an "honest, upright Christian man of his word".
He added that Hepburn was a leader in his community who would help people in his neighborhood with minor home repairs.
He said when he heard about the crime that Hepburn is accused of committing he was shocked.
"When I got the news I couldn't sleep for three nights," he said.
He said his wife, who also knows Hepburn, "hollered straight through the night" after she heard of the defendant's alleged crime.
"We could never believe Prince Hepburn committed such an act," he said.
He added that he was "still shocked" about Hepburn's alleged crime.
On cross-examination, the witness said he did not know that Hepburn had left his wife for Brown-Cox. He told the prosecutor that Hepburn's truck was always parked outside his family's home and that he did not know the accused was having an extra-marital affair.
"What he is charged for, that is not his character," said Cunningham, who is also a minister at Annex Baptist Church.
However, Williams charged that Cunningham did not really know the accused.
"I did and I still know Prince Hepburn," Cunningham answered.
Electrical contractor Dwight Hall, who met Hepburn 15 years ago while on a job consultation, described the accused as an honest, fun-loving, happy person.
He said the news of Hepburn's alleged crime caught him by surprise.
"I never knew him to be caught up in doing something contrary to the law," Hall said. "It bewildered me to find out it was actually him."
On cross-examination, he said he was not aware of the defendant's relationship with Brown-Cox and never met her.
Property manager Pauline Curry testified that she knew the defendant for the past 16 years, but said their relationship was purely a business one.
She said the crime he allegedly committed was "totally against his character".
She said the defendant is a good, religious person who did not drink or smoke.
During his opening argument on Monday, Ducille said his client had a "temporary psychotic break" which led to the murder and his suicide attempt.
On Monday, the defense's first witness, psychiatrist Dr. Michael Neville, said Hepburn had a "depressive illness" brought on after he found out his girlfriend was cheating on him.
He said the defendant's thinking was "irrational" at the time of the attack and this diminished his responsibility.
Neville said Hepburn confessed to him that he "flew into a rage" and "chopped" Brown-Cox after she brushed off accusations that she was cheating on him.
Neville told the court that after the attack, Hepburn drank bleach, took pills and chopped himself.
However, the prosecutor suggested that Hepburn's actions were "premeditated" and his suicide attempt was a ploy to "get away with murder".
Police found Brown-Cox's body on the kitchen floor of an apartment in South Beach, lying in a pool of blood.
She had severe wounds across her body and the fingers on her right hand were missing.
Last week, crime scene investigator Dwayne Stubbs testified that a silver cutlass was found near the victim's foot with the words "You're next George Sawyer NX" on one side and "This is what cheaters get" on the other side.
He said a second cutlass found in the bedroom had the words "Cheaters and Liars" on both sides.
Hepburn and Brown-Cox had plans to marry after their divorces to their respective spouses were finalized, the court heard earlier this week.

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News Article
Confronting the real issue(s) in the gender equality debate pt. 2

This piece concludes a series that has sought to unravel some of the issues raised during the current debate on gender equality. The positive feedback and support from both men and women following the publication of the first part has been overwhelming and encouraging, signaling the fact that Bahamians understand what is at stake. It also confirms that our people know that which is right and are committed to fairness and equality.
The public discourse over the last few weeks has left many confused as to the actual topic in focus. This is because certain interest groups and persons have turned a simple discussion about granting Bahamian women the same rights as Bahamian men as well as gender equality for certain men into any and every thing including a performing arts theater, a court of law, a religious but not spiritual seminar and a forum for voicing concerns over illegal migration or homophobia or foreign persons. We conclude this two-part series by looking at the real issue(s) in this debate.
Distractions and irrelevant additions
One of the things we have mastered over the years is the art of adding irrelevant points to a debate. While the motivation for introducing distractions to public discourse include ignorance, a confused state of mind and a genuine concern, in some cases the underlying objective is to create mischief.
It is a well-known fact that in interpreting the law, the judiciary will often consider the provisions of the law and the intention of Parliament in promulgating a piece of legislation. The prime minister, attorney general, Constitutional Commission and other parliamentarians have clearly stated that the proposed amendments to our constitution to provide for gender equality will not change the definition of marriage under the relevant laws and will not allow for same-sex marriage in The Bahamas.
Dispelling the same-sex marriage bogeyman
In the event that this is not sufficient or there remains any doubt, reference needs to be made to the document that is the subject of the debate - the constitution. Article 26 of the constitution provides that "no law shall make any provision which is discriminatory either of itself or in its effect, except under prescribed circumstances which include laws with respect to adoption, marriage, divorce, burial, devolution of property on death or other matters of personal law." In essence, unless this specific provision is altered, marriage will continue to be defined as a union between a man and a woman. Section 21 (1) of the Matrimonial Causes Act, Chapter 125 clearly states that a marriage shall be void if the parties are not respectively male and female.
Was this just aimed at further complicating the discussion or is it designed to invoke the emotions of Bahamians? If the commentators have genuine concerns as true Bahamians, they should just propose alternative wording which removes the ambiguity they felt existed in the draft bills, rather than make this an issue for controversy. The saying is ever so true that if a person is not a part of the solution, he or she is a part of the problem. We are seeking solutions, not just persons that specialize in highlighting problems. Now that the Constitutional Commission has decided to revise the wording of bills numbers two and for to address the genuine concerns of the Bahamian people, it is hoped that we will be able to put this matter to rest and continue with the education of our people.
An alternative to the proposed changes
An interesting proposal has also emerged in this debate and that is, rather than changing the constitution to give Bahamian women the same rights as Bahamian men, the constitution should be revised to take away the privileges which Bahamian men have enjoyed for four decades with a view to putting all of us in the same position. This proposal is flawed in that it ignores international standards and does not compensate Bahamian men and women for the 41 years of injustice and discrimination.
Additionally, the proposal begs the question as to where the inventors of this new solution have been hitherto. Were they so busy developing this plan aimed at righting the wrong of gender inequality for all these years? Could it be that their creativity and brilliance was aroused as soon as it became apparent that the government is seeking to address this issue? The logical conclusion seems to be that they have found their religion and voice at a strategic and convenient time to question why men were given these rights in the first place. Hence, rather than give the Bahamian woman what is rightfully hers, they have taken the view that Bahamians should no longer have this right if women want the same rights.
That being said, if the goal is to bring about true gender equality, an additional question should be posed to the populace at the referendum. The question should seek the views of Bahamians on whether the exclusive rights granted to men and denied to women in our constitution should be revoked to promote equality. In essence, the questions should be phrased such that the outcome is either an expansion of all constitutional rights to all Bahamians including women or reduction of existing rights given to men to put all Bahamians, regardless of gender on equal footing.
The government and the debate
It is important that the quality of the debate is maintained at a high level and we remain civil to one another in spite of differing views. We must not allow the discussion to deteriorate in depth and substance such that we lose sight of the ultimate objective of the current proposals. Our political leaders, the religious community, civic organizations, professional bodies and the media must play their part and be responsible in the dissemination of accurate information to the general public.
The government, for its part, should ensure that the education process is comprehensive and effective in enlightening the populace and allaying any fears or concerns. More importantly, the government should be open to constructive criticisms, genuine concerns and reasonable proposals for amendments to the draft bills aimed at providing clarity on the issues. The government should also engage and enlist the support of non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders to pass its message along.
Conclusion
And so this piece concludes where it started; is the opposition to granting Bahamian women equal rights justified? It is apparent that the battle here is based on ideologies, complexes and loyalty to the status quo. Are we really progressive as a people or do we just delight in opposing any and everything? Are our Bahamian brothers secure enough to support an initiative that grants their Bahamian sisters equality? Do Bahamians trust Bahamian women to be patriotic and protect our cherished country and citizenship? If all the concerns are addressed and clarity provided, will we still vote against gender equality?
Once we have addressed the unclear aspects of the proposed bills, can we now move forward to have a sensible debate on gender equality in The Bahamas? If all the issues considered in this two part series have been ironed out, what stands in our way as Bahamians from doing that which is right? Is there an underlying issue or philosophy behind the opposition by some to gender equality in The Bahamas? This writer submits that those who oppose the principle of gender equality and equal rights for Bahamian women in particular have the mindset that Bahamian women are no more than chattel or property. These individuals believe that we, the Bahamian women, are inferior to men and lesser human beings than our male counterparts.
In the final analysis, the Bahamian women and the new generation of Bahamians will be watching and listening. It is said that action speaks louder than words. It is not enough to say with mere words that you support equal rights for women; you must prove it by your actions. In the words of the late Maya Angelou, we "will forget what you said and what you did, but we will never forget how you made us (the Bahamian women) feel" in our own country.
o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments on this article can be directed to a.s.komolafe510@gmail.com.

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News Article
The forensic audit

During the past few weeks, a lot has been written about the forensic audit that was conducted by Grant Thornton into various allegations surrounding the former director and chairman at the National Insurance Board. Since then, there has been considerable public discussion about that forensic audit, much of which is uninformed or misinformed. Therefore this week we would like to Consider This... what is a forensic audit and how does it differ from financial audits?
A working definition: Forensic vs. financial audits
A forensic audit is an examination and evaluation of a firm's or individual's financial information, generally but not exclusively for use as evidence in court. At one end of the continuum, the forensic audit can be conducted in order to determine the underlying facts regarding economic or financial transactions, or, at the other end of the continuum, to prosecute a party for fraud, embezzlement or other financial claims. Forensic audits can also be conducted to determine negligence or the amount of money an individual will have to pay if he is determined to be culpable of the matter being examined in a forensic audit.
Forensic audits are non-recurring, often performed on a case by case basis, frequently in anticipation of litigation and can include fraud, valuation, bankruptcy, and a host of other professional services.
The financial audit on the other hand, with which most people are more familiar, is very different. The financial audit is generally conducted annually for the purpose of expressing an opinion on those statements or related information by independent auditors. The primary objective of the financial audit is to provide its readers, such as bankers, shareholders and creditors, with information that has been closely scrutinized by the independent auditor in order to enhance the credibility of such information.
What are the requirements of a forensic auditor?
Forensic audits are performed by a special class of financial experts known as forensic accountants. While most accountants have some basic training in fraud detection and investigation, the forensic auditor is a specially trained certified or chartered accountant who has obtained the designation of a certified financial forensic analyst or certified fraud examiner. The forensic auditor will often retain the services of an attorney to direct the forensic accounting or audit investigation, at least as far as the legal aspects are concerned.
Why conduct a forensic audit?
Forensic audits are conducted whenever companies, organizations or law enforcement officials require reliable data on a party's financial status or activities. For example, when reaching a divorce settlement, a lawyer might request the presiding judge to permit a forensic audit to uncover assets that one spouse is trying to hide from the other or from the court.
If a person wanted to sue a professional such as an attorney, accountant or doctor for negligence, a person could request a forensic audit to determine how much the botched job cost them. Or if an elected official is accused of accepting bribes, financial mismanagement or fraud, a forensic auditing team can determine the extent and amount of the loss incurred. Forensic audits are also sought by chief executives, chief financial officers or board members who suspect embezzlement within the company.
For these reasons, unlike the financial audit process which is non-adversarial in nature, the forensic audits, which often involve efforts to affix blame, are adversarial in nature.
Scope and methodology
The scope of the financial audit is a general examination of financial data, which the auditor approaches with professional scepticism. By contrast, the forensic audit is conducted to resolve specific allegations, and is completed by the examination of relevant documents, review of outside data and interviews of people who are the subject of the forensic audit.
In some cases, when the suspected employee is particularly powerful or popular, it might be useful to employ additional outside specialists because they are immune from company politics or threats of reprisals. Such experts might also have greater experience and investigative contacts than insiders.
The scope of the forensic audit often requires more intense and in-depth examination of supporting documents which are also normally included in the financial audit. Those documents, which can include financial statements, contracts, books and records of the organization being audited, can be voluminous and, for a forensic audit, would require considerably greater scrutiny. Furthermore, more people are normally interviewed in a forensic audit, sometimes along with legal counsel to ensure that the line of questioning is appropriate and properly documented and also to lay the groundwork for potential litigation that might result from the forensic audit.
In addition, the level and depth of professional training and expertise of the forensic auditor is usually much more advanced than that of the normal financial auditor. Therefore, the cost of the forensic audit can easily outpace that of the financial audit.
The end game
Numerous positives can result from a forensic audit. First, a report of the auditors' findings is prepared and presented to the client. This report can be used to ascertain the existence and extent of the fraud, embezzlement or other financial malfeasance. In addition, the forensic auditor will provide the client with weaknesses and strengths of the institution, its personnel, its business systems and routines that are being audited, often far more in depth than results from a regular financial audit. Such recommendations can provide a basis for assisting the company to improve the internal controls, policies and practices of the institution being audited, resulting in the enhancement of its future operation.
Finally, a forensic audit can be used to discover criminality in an organization and can be used to bring those responsible for the criminality to justice. A good forensic auditor will always approach the audit with a view to recognizing that the results of his work will be sustainable in court in order to support the claims of malfeasance against the people being audited. Alternatively, a forensic audit could also exonerate a person suspected of conducting illegal or unethical business transactions.
Conclusion
The incidence of fraud, embezzlement or other financial crimes and malfeasance have been with us from the beginning of humankind. These kinds of wrongdoing will in all likelihood significantly increase in the foreseeable future.
Given the increasing demand for accountability and transparency by the public and regulators, as well as the greater expectation of directors and officers to be more responsive to best practices of corporate governance, the role of the forensic auditor will continue to grow in importance. Organizations and individuals will benefit from this evolving discipline as the public becomes more familiar with the principles of forensic auditing and the very important role that it can play in the positive development of a secure economy and a stable society.
o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis & Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to pgalanis@gmail.com.

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News Article
Understanding Bahamian parliamentary democracy

Today, 45 years to the day of the attainment of majority rule, there is chronic and widespread ignorance of our system of government and national constitution.  Sadly, no longer surprisingly, so-called "informed" people in civil society, academia, business and "the press corps" are among the woefully uninformed.
Many of them regurgitate effluvia on the supposed problems of our parliamentary democracy on matters ranging from "checks and balances" to collective responsibility and the constitutional powers of the prime minister.
Mesmerized by American politics including the theatrics that substitute for news on U.S. cable news, some local commentators cannot utter "checks" without mindlessly adding "balances", with seemingly limited appreciation for either term.
The supposed corrective measures to repair our supposedly broken democracy are, to paraphrase attorney Andrew Allen in the context of shallow arguments for term limits, superficial non-solutions to imaginary problems.
One recent and egregious example is an opinion piece entitled, "The Bahamas: A Constitutional Dictatorship?"  The commentary is callow.  It lacks depth and breadth.  One wonders how conversant the columnist is with the Bahamian constitution, our constitutional history and the rudimentary history and philosophy of parliamentary democracy.
 
Noise
It is important to have a diversity of opinion on the issues of the day.  But opinion devoid of or sloppy with facts, by personalities helping to form the opinions of others through talk radio, television, the Internet and in the print media, is just more noise.  Public dialogue is impoverished not enriched when opinions are divorced from critical thinking and fact-finding.
The column in question descended into unthinking rhetoric and a cavalcade of contradictions partly because it was based on and began with false premises, so nauseatingly repeated that they have become accepted as fact:
"We have an anachronistic, colonial governance system that is no longer suitable for the needs of our developing nation in this 21st century.  We inherited this Westminster system of governance from the British."
It is difficult to take seriously opinions that get basic facts wrong.  To discuss the issue of governance we need to get our language and concepts in order.  The appellation Westminster system of governance is not quite precise and misses some critical differences between Bahamian and British parliamentary democracy.
For instance, at Westminster the British parliament is sovereign.  There is no supreme law or written constitution in Britain.  By a simple majority of parliament in Britain fundamental rights can be altered and the monarchy itself can be abolished.
The Bahamas has a written constitution with clearly defined checks on power.  Before certain fundamental provisions of the constitution (entrenched and specially entrenched) can be changed, a two-thirds or three-quarters majority vote of both Houses of Parliament is required.
Furthermore, the proposed changes must be approved by the electorate in a referendum before they can become law.  This process is an innovation that is not enjoyed by all parliamentary democracies, including some in the Caribbean.
It gives the Bahamian people direct control over the fundamental provisions of the Constitution, including provisions relating to citizenship, fundamental rights and freedoms, and the establishment of our national governmental institutions.
There are frameworks, templates and provisions utilized by most countries, including former British colonies, in the drafting of national constitutions.  Still, The Bahamas does not have a cookie cutter constitution.  Any suggestion to that effect is misleading and does not fully acknowledge or appreciate the role played by our constitutional fathers in the framing of the independence constitution.
 
Larger
A number of the customs and traditions used in the much larger British parliamentary system are not germane to and would be unworkable in our context.  With a 650-member House of Commons compared to our much smaller House of Assembly, our practice of parliamentary democracy is necessarily different.
The assertion that we have a colonial system of governance in itself is patently not true.  Furthermore, it contradicts the assertion, made in the same breath, that we have a Westminster model of governance.
Under the colonial system of governance the Colony of the Bahama Islands had a parliament that was, in the words of the late Bahamian constitutional expert the Hon. Eugene Dupuch, "representative but not responsible".
There was no Cabinet, but there was an Executive Council, presided over by the British governor, who enjoyed enormous power.  There was also a system of boards, forerunners to government ministries, with the governor enjoying ultimate control over major decisions by the boards.
The dismantling of that colonial system began with the 1964 Constitution that was negotiated in London the previous year.  That Constitution ushered in a large measure of internal self-rule with the British governor still retaining some powers including defense, security and foreign affairs.  That process continued with the 1969 Constitution, when more power devolved to the Cabinet, and was completed with the Independence Constitution of 1973.
Thanks to the foresight of our Bahamian constitutional fathers who adeptly negotiated with the British, The Bahamas is now a modern, stable, successful parliamentary democracy.  While there were differences between the Bahamian political parties at the Independence Conference on a few matters relating to rights, there was general agreement on matters of governance.
We no more have a colonial system of governance than India, Australia, Jamaica, Barbados or Canada, fellow parliamentary democracies in the Commonwealth of Nations.  Anything but anachronistic, this system has proven to be durable, flexible and workable across cultures, countries and centuries.
Unfortunately, many who should know better believe that parliamentary democracy itself is antiquated, and that the United States has a better system of government, and one that is inherently more advisable or workable.  This is a fallacy to which we will have to return.
There are many non-Commonwealth nations which have opted for parliamentary democracy.  They have similarly discovered a certain genius within the system, the rudiments of which are hundreds of years old having evolved into one of the more effective systems of government in human history.
 
Note: This is the first installment of the series, "Understanding Bahamian Parliamentary Democracy".  Subsequent columns will review various topics including "checks and balances", term limits, the U.S. system of government and the merits and flexibility of parliamentary democracy.
 
frontporchguardian@gmail.com
www.bahamapundit.com
 

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News Article
Halsbury Chambers holds their 6th Annual Free Legal Clinic

Nassau, Bahamas - On the 18

th September, 2010, Halsbury Chambers
held its 6

th Annual Free Legal Clinic "Information You Need for the
life You Want" at its main office situate Halsbury Commercial Center, Village
Road.  The firm's legal clinic was
open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 
Attorneys at the firm gave free legal advice on a variety of legal issues,
including corporate matters, real estate and mortgages, wills, matrimonial and
divorce, landlord and tenants, debt collections and banking.

Persons who attended left with the September, 2010 issue of
the firm's Newsletter "Inside the Chamber" as well as pens, mugs and
calculators embossed with the firm's name; refreshments were also served... 

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News Article
Prince Hepburn guilty of murder

A Supreme Court jury today found contractor Prince Hepburn guilty of the murder of his girlfriend Nellie Mae Brown-Cox, almost two years after the charity worker was found chopped to death in her South Beach apartment.
Hepburn, who had been in a five-year relationship with Brown-Cox, showed no visible reaction after the verdict, which was delivered around 2:30 p.m.
It came about an hour and a half after the jury started deliberating.
Hepburn's attorney Murrio Ducille plans to file an appeal on the conviction after the Easter holidays.
"It does not end here," Ducille told reporters. "The system eventually will work. Where there are slip-ups in the system there is always somewhere else where it can be taken care of."
Hepburn's legal team argued that he had a temporary psychotic illness, which left him with diminished responsibility for the killing.
During the trial the court also heard that Hepburn tried to kill himself after he chopped Brown-Cox to death.
Prosecutor Franklyn Williams did not give interviews after the verdict.
Brown-Cox's family also did not speak to the press.
Police found Brown-Cox's body on the kitchen floor of the apartment, lying in a pool of blood on April 7, 2011. Police believe she died between April 6 and 7.
She had severe wounds across her body and the fingers on her right hand were missing.
Last week, crime scene investigator Dwayne Stubbs testified that a silver cutlass was found near the victim's foot with the words "You're next George Sawyer NX" on one side and "This is what cheaters get" on the other side.
He said a second cutlass found in the bedroom had the words "Cheaters and Liars" on both sides.
Hepburn and Brown-Cox had plans to marry after their divorces to their respective spouses were finalized, the court heard earlier this week.
Hepburn will be sentenced on May 22.

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