Bill of Rights will demand speedier justice

| 24/08/2011

(CNS): One of Cayman’s Grand court judges has warned local attorneys that justice delayed really is justice denied and that once the Bill of Rights comes into force, the courts will need to see speedier justice for those accused of a crime. Not for the first time, Grand Court judge, Justice Alex Henderson, pointed out on Friday that the length of time that many cases take to get to trial in Cayman is unacceptable and there was “going to have to be some changes made.” As case after case was adjourned on his ‘mentions’ list, the judge pointed out that defendants not only have a right to a fair trial but they have a right to answer charges in a reasonable time frame.

The Bill of Rights which forms part of the Cayman Islands 2009 Constitution comes into effect next November. Article 5 of the Bill of Rights makes it clear that anyone who is detained in connection with a crime and not released on bail has a right to be tried promptly. If the person “is not tried within a reasonable time he or she shall be released,” the BoR reads. In Article 7 it also states: “Everyone has the right to a fair and public hearing in the determination of his or her legal rights and obligations by an independent and impartial court within a reasonable time.” 

Although “promptly” and “reasonable” are not defined in the articles, these questions will be in the hands of the courts. If a case is brought by a defendant under the bill of rights because of undue delay, it will be local judges who will be deciding what is considered prompt or reasonable. With some cases currently dragging on for literally years, the courts could be facing a number of human rights applications once the bill is in effect and the prosecution may lose cases before the trials even begin.

Defendants are facing persistent delays for a diversity of reasons, but one of the most common is the lack of legal representation, as well as finding courtroom time or available judges. The number of criminal attorneys prepared to do legal aid work in Cayman remains limited to around a dozen lawyers and even less firms. With criminal cases increasing each year, finding suitable advocates for those charged with serious crimes who are not conflicted is becoming more and more challenging.

Finding court space and judges is also adding to delays as the first available dates for those cases now ready for the courtroom are in March 2012, more than seventh months away.

See the Bill of Rights here

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Category: Crime

Comments (12)

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  1. Dennie Warren Jr. says:

    The Bill of Rights may demand speedier justice, but will government administrators respect that higher law or you enough to push for it?  I promise any administrator who has violated my rights an opportunity to justify his or her actions or decisions before the court, if necessary.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Check out –

    It's also a fact that the system of 'police bail' has been abused over the years. Under this an accused person (aften an ex-pat falsely accused by a disgruntled former employer) can be held without charge on the islands almost indefinitely while the police allegedly do follow up investigations. In most, if not all cases, the files seem to sit on someone's desk and gather dust because the RCIPS officers concerned know that the charges are unfounded but are too close to the accuser to drop them and let the real victim go free. 

    In one case a few years Justice Henderson was about to cut the victim loose following a plea of habeas corpus when the RCIPS suddenly decided to file criminal charges after sitting on the paperwork for over 18 months.

    The other problem you have with these delays and abuses of process is that they could now let real criminals walk free simply because the length of time it took to bring them to trial violated their human rights. 

  3. Anonymouse says:

    See,  McKeeva was right that we need to have a 'legal defenders unit'.  Can the courts 'impeach' themselves for not putting in a better legal aid programe?

  4. Anonymous says:

    The problem here is not everyone charged with an offence is guilty or a scumbag! So your comments ignore the basic accepted premises that people are "innocent until proven guilty".

    I think that it's a disgrace how long cases take to be resolved. If your viewpoint is 1 sided think about victims also because they have to wait and wait and wait for justice to be served. So then … who wins by delaying court proceedings? NO ONE!

  5. Rights said Fred says:

    We don't need to wait that long.  The ECHR applies with full force in Cayman and guarantees greater rights than the domestic Bill of Rights anyway.  The Grand Court has already exercised discretions based on the ECHR.  Excessive delay and a denial of a fair trial would allow a judge to dismiss a case today.

  6. Libertarian says:

    When someone commits a crime, you don't investigate them for over 5 months. And then charge and bail them for court. As a judge, you don't put off cases for months. By time one year expires, after many bails, and Justice is denied, don't be surprise that the perpatrator has forgotten the seriousness and gravity of his offense. And then, not only was Justice denied, but the grave sense of judgement too.  

  7. Anonymous says:

    Frankly I am not worried about the scumbags that are locked up awaiting trial, leave them right where they are because they all seem to get off on technicalities as it is. How about using the bill of rights to champion the rights of the victimized and innocent.


    • Slowpoke says:

      Yes, that worked out well when we arrested Judge Henderson.  We only had to pay him $1 million+. 

      Money well spent, so let's do it again…

    • Anonymous says:

      20.25 I suggest you sit down and have a little think about your comment. 

      These individuals have not been convicted of any crime.  Are you suggesting that if I accused you of a crime that you didn't commit you'd be happy to wait in Northward for a year before I decided to retract my allegation or a court found I was lying?

    • Anonymous says:

      But you are missing some of the point, despite your rather draconian view, in some cases people who have comitted serious crimes are bailed for years before their case is heard……so therefore the "scumbags" (if they are guilty) are not locked up, but rather they are still walking free- free to comit further crimes (detected or otherwise) and probably laughing at the system. Others who may be innocent of crimes (just because the police accuse you does not mean you are giulty, by the way)  have a huge weight dragging round their neck, even for lesser crimes, and have their lives ruined while they wait for their case to be determined. The system should move more quickly to hear and conclude all criminal cases. (Whilst still ensuring fair hearings for all)