Archive for August 24th, 2011

Bill of Rights will demand speedier justice

| 24/08/2011 | 12 Comments

(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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