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Family Lawyer Gets MBE

Attorney Mrs. Karin Thompson is honoured with an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours 2014 for her services to the protection of children and to the Cayman Islands community.

Who better than a veteran practising family lawyer to routinely suggest changes to keep the community's statutes dynamic and relevant?

For decades, attorney Karin Thompson has been an articulate, passionate and indefatigable advocate for legislation that tackles both children's and domestic violence issues.

Now, for her services to the protection of children and to the Cayman Islands community, she is the sole Member of the British Empire (MBE) recipient in this year's Queen's Birthday Honours list.

"I am very touched and slightly embarrassed; this is really humbling," admits Mrs. Thompson, originally from the fishing village of South Sound. "I am filled with a sense of pride for my children, for all the children and the voiceless victims I have endeavoured to champion."

She adds, "I am also proud for my mother (Mrs. Janice Martinez, a retired nurse who earned her Master's degree in her 70s). When she was one of the three last recipients of the Imperial Award in 1992, she dedicated the award to me. And I thought I have to live up to her expectations; I am happy now I have."

She does not consider her work a chore or a burden, but deems it a "privilege", despite the long hours in her private practice. She has been going strong since 1987 when she was awarded a Bachelor of Laws Degree (with distinction) from the University of Liverpool.

While already working in the field of law, which is her lifelong passion, she jumped at the chance of getting a legal education when it became available locally. Five years later, she was among the first batch of graduates from the then CI Law School, now renamed after prominent Caymanian attorney and former Government Minister, Mr. Truman Bodden, OBE.

Mr Bodden was also Ms Thompson's first boss and mentor, she acknowledges gratefully. She also praises her husband of 34 years, Bing, for his support for all her accomplishments.

Originally, when the law degree was envisaged as a purely local one, the first batch of students lobbied for and got recognition from the University of Liverpool. "I'm very proud that we blazed a trail for those coming behind us," she says.

A founding member of the Caymanian Bar Association, she is locally acclaimed for her struggle and subsequent lead role in developing the Islands' landmark Domestic Violence Law.

Her objective was a law that established a crisis centre and empowered all victims of abuse including children. From speaking about the need for reform and for legislation at organisations such as the Business and Professional Women's Club (BPW), she went on to working on the actual draft law, and dedicated countless hours to the process.

Another invaluable contribution on her part was the Children Law, which was passed in the House in 1992 but took 20 more years to come into force in 2012.

Other projects included the laws governing Matrimonial Causes, the Guardianship of Children in Custody, Succession, Adoption, Maintenance, Youth Justice and Affiliation.

Many family laws needed be amended to reflect recent developments such as the Cayman Islands new Constitution and more importantly, the Bill of Rights. Existing laws relating to children continue to require amendments to bring them in tune with the Bill of Rights and so her work continues.

An example of a problem she says is the varying ages that end the specific rights conferred on children under different laws. These might be 16 years in one instance and 17 years in another. These need to be unified. It is a question of melding legal and moral obligations, she notes.

Additionally, she also finds time to provide criminal advocacy services for children before juvenile courts free of charge, the only criminal law she currently practises. Another special interest is her work with ARK Charity Foundation (Acts of Random Kindness).

Her latest contributions to the community were as Chairman of the Commission for Standards in Public Life, which was established under the new Constitution. She was among those who were gratified to see the law pass recently.

She is also an active board member of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, Children and Youth Services Foundations (CAYS) and the Young Caymanian Leadership Award Foundation (YCLA) of which she is a founding member.

In addition she has chaired the Labour Appeals and Planning Appeals Tribunals and served on the executive of Cayman Against Substance Abuse (CASA), Cayman Islands Health Authority Board and the BPW, which named her Woman of the Year in 2002.

Mrs. Thompson feels amply rewarded for all her advocacy work. "I strongly believe the more I give, the more I receive," she comments.


For further information contact: Bina Mani