None of the applicants were named, but when the matter was raised before the Commission of Inquiry (COI) yesterday, September 28, it was disclosed that one of the applicants, who was a convicted rapist serving a 10-year sentence in the United States, and had roots in the BVI.
The other person who was considered was reportedly not born in the territory but had lived in the BVI for more than 30 years.
Immigration Minister, Vincent Wheatley, who appeared before the COI yesterday, said the considerations made by government were done primarily on a ‘humanitarian’ basis.
The COI was further told that the considerations were made in 2019 at a time when government sought to regularise through its fast track initiative, the status of hundreds of applicants that had been waiting for years.
Back then, Premier Andrew Fahie cautioned that he was not condoning the crime of rape, but said the BVI was the only place that one of the applicants had ever known as their home.
Premier Fahie said back then that the applicant’s parents had made representation to him and informed him that the US court was even willing to have the convict serve their sentence in the BVI.
At the time, the Premier and his ministers conferred on the matter and agreed that it should be deferred for three weeks.
While conceding that he remembered the cases very well, Minister Wheatley said that he could not recall whether the persons under consideration were ever granted the status that was being sought.
This was despite being pressed on the fact that he considered the circumstances to be unique and an anomaly.
Wheatley, in his evidence said he was familiar with at least one of the criminals all his life, having attended school with the person.
“This is sympathy. This is somebody I went to school with, who I guess, was caught up in a situation,” the Minister told the COI.
He added: ”We just thought it was the humane thing to do in this case and these are things you do almost against your better judgment, so to speak, but the humanitarian in us said this is probably the right thing to do.”
Wheatley said he knew the parents of the rapist very well and described them as upstanding persons.
“We were just trying to be sympathetic to their cause to have their son here with them. So that’s what that was,”
He further told the COI that he made an assessment that the two applicants were of ‘good character’.
“Notwithstanding the situation, they were. Things happen to persons … It was a sympathy call more than anything else — just to bring some relief to families,” Wheatley said.
The Attorney General at the time advised that the issue was up to the discretion of the Cabinet.
Furthermore, the Act requires applicants under the specific category to be ordinarily resident in the BVI for a period of at least 20 years, likely barring those applicants if they had been serving their sentences for some time.
Meanwhile, Cabinet chair and acting governor at the time, Rosalie Adams cautioned against giving any consideration to the issue.
“While we want to be sympathetic to these persons, what was the plan for further rehabilitation for them?” Adams is reported to have asked in Cabinet.
The Chairman further stated that the BVI should not be a dumping ground for persons who did not behave in a good manner while overseas or considered a place that was a home for non-law abiding citizens.