Year in Review

July: Rethink forced on primary school closures

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David Burt revealed that the Government would re-evaluate the scoring process that was used to determine which primary schools should close as part of its education reform plans. 

The Premier, along with Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, announced the news at a town hall meeting held by the West End Warriors, a pressure group formed to fight the closure of West End Primary School. 

Under the Government’s plan, eight of the island’s 18 primary schools will be axed, leaving one school per parish with the exception of Pembroke with two. Only those with more than one school per parish are subject to the rescoring process. 

The West End Warriors argued that the scoring was flawed, and that the history and legacy of each school should have been considered in the process. 

The Government launched a history and legacy committee in response. Its initial criteria focused primarily on the suitability of school buildings and grounds for renovations, and proximity to a preschool. 

West End Warriors made numerous arguments against West End’s closure, aside from its history and legacy. They included better road safety and similar acreage at the school compared with the chosen parish school of Somerset Primary School. 

St David’s Primary School has also submitted a proposal to remain open and become the “parish school” for St David’s, despite the region not being categorised as a parish. 

The work of the Government’s history and legacy committee was due to be completed at the end of November. 

Speaking at a recent Throne Speech press conference, Mr Rabain said that after the report is completed, the parish primary school plan would be re-examined, with a new plan formed and put back out for consultation. 

Also in July, a US court ruled that the Corporation of Hamilton was on the hook for the improper release of $13.7 million intended to kick-start a hotel project, which ultimately failed. 

Mexico Infrastructure Finance had accused the corporation and the Bank of New York Mellon of releasing the funds in breach of an escrow agreement. The corporation argued that it did not have the legal power to enter into the agreement, which made it unenforceable, but a judgment in the Southern District of New York rejected that defence. 

District Judge Denise Cote found that the corporation had “turned a blind eye” to potential risks and was liable for losses suffered by MIF. 

Marc C. Zauderer, partner at Ganfer Shore Leeds and Zauderer, which represented MIF in the case, said: “We are grateful for the US federal court’s decision, which holds the Corporation of Hamilton responsible for the damages it caused our client, an amount well in excess of $20 million.” 

Charles Gosling, the mayor, said the legal decision was “potentially significant” for the City. 

In the same month, BermudaAir, a luxury boutique airline catering to business-class travellers, was granted a US licence to operate. 

To mark the “milestone”, Adam Scott, the chief executive, invited dignitaries to a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its customer services offices at LF Wade International Airport. 

This month, Martha Dismont, who was appointed a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 2016 for her decades of service to the island, passed away at the age of 66. 

The social worker and counsellor built the therapeutic charity Family Centre, one of Bermuda’s leading helping agencies, and fought the corner of the island’s most vulnerable — particularly children. 

Tributes poured in after news of Ms Dismont’s passing. David Burt said she was “committed to uplifting the lives of others”. 

On July 4, a St George’s man accused of blackmailing a pair of teenage girls was convicted of a string of child-porn offences by a Supreme Court jury. 

Cahlii Smith, 30, was found guilty of charges including extortion, making child pornography, accessing child pornography and distributing child pornography. 

The court heard from two victims who said they had been contacted by someone on Facebook who claimed to be a hacker that had accessed intimate images of them from their phones. 

They said that the purported hacker then demanded they produce pornographic images and videos or he would release the material he had on social media. The incidents happened between 2013 and 2015. 

They said they gave into the demands but the material was shared regardless. 

Police seized a laptop and discovered pornographic images and videos of the girls along with personal photographs of Smith. 

Later in the month, the Supreme Court has upheld the decision to hold him in custody until he can be sentenced. By year’s end, he was still waiting. 

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