Judiciary needs new court

| 11/01/2012

courts good.jpg(CNS): With an ever increasing workload, especially  in criminal matters, and ten judicial officers presiding over the myriad cases passing through the local court system in only six court rooms, the country’s top judge has said there is now a pressing need for the long planned new court house to be built. Speaking at the official opening of the Grand Court on Wednesday morning, Chief Justice Anthony Smellie pointed out that people had the right not only to a fair and timely trial in criminal cases but the right to have accurate and cost-effective determinations of all disputes before the courts. He said the work load now more than justified the new building, which had received government approval several years ago.

Smellie explained to a court room filled with members of the legal profession who had turned out for the judicial occasion that the new court house project was in the advanced stages of its design when it was shelved because of the financial crisis of 2009.

“The need for it is more urgent and pressing than ever and I do not think it has to be explained, having been accepted by government and the commitment renewed in each Throne Speech over the past several years,” the chief justice said.

1,338 new cases were filed in the summary court during 2011 and 1,276 were disposed of, including some which were carried forward from 2010. In the Grand Court, 114 indictments were filed on top of cases carried over from 2010. In total 91 cases were handled by the Grand Court last year and 88 have been carried into the new judicial year.

However, it is the rate of disposal which is the most important statistic, the chief justice noted. In the Grand Court Criminal Division that was 285 days, down by 54 days over the same period in 2010.  “Although not as low as the benchmark of 180 days, this is a reduction in the time to disposal that brings us closer to that benchmark which we had established until the marked year-on-year increase in the criminal case load which started in 2006,” he explained.

The average time in the Summary Court for criminal matters, he said, was still troubling at 298 days, which illustrated the need for a permanent fourth magistrate to help handle the sheer volume of criminal cases each year but the lack of court rooms and other facilities has prevented that appointment.

Despite the justification already well-established regarding the new court, he said the government and the public were still entitled to timely reports on the situation.

“The overall position is that there are now seven judges of the Grand Court,” he said.
All seven hear cases on a daily basis, and with just three magistrates hearing Summary Court every day. This means there are still ten judicial officers but only six court rooms. This is compounded when the Court of Appeal is in session when eleven court rooms are needed.

“The problem is exacerbated whenever there are lengthy trials, which will occupy court rooms for several days or even weeks on end, thereby effectively reducing the available number of court rooms for the recurring number of other trials,” Justice Smellie added.

Unlike other areas, of government, the chief justice said, investment in plant had not kept pace with the increase in business at the court.

“This is notwithstanding the fact that revenue generated from the commercial side of court business has continued to contribute significantly towardsoffsetting the costs of providing the services,” he added.

The Financial Services Court alone has generated a significant amount of money over the last 18 months and made an important contribution to government coffers.

But the chief justice noted that the decision on the new court could not just depend on costs; the timeliness in the delivery of justice was an important consideration.

“It must not be forgotten that what is at risk if the administration of justice falters is the right of the citizen to a fair and timely trial and the right of all persons who come before the courts to have  accurate and cost-effective determinations of their disputes,” he said. “In the absence of the assurance of those rights, Cayman would soon lose its reputation as a fine place in which to live and in which to conduct business.”

Justice Smellie said the judicial administration would be seeking to re-engage the government about the new court house this year.

During his report the chief justice revealed that magistrate Nova Hall had been appointed as chief magistrate in the Summary Court following the departure of Margaret Ramsey-Hale to the Turks and Caicos Islands.

He also confirmed that local attorney Eileen Nervik would act as a temporary magistrate to help with the current workload until former crown counsel, Kirsty-Ann Gunn, who has been appointed by the judicial services commission as permanent magistrate, takes up the post in April.

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Category: Crime

Comments (37)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    All they need is a couple of court rooms. How about putting a couple of modular buildings out back? Or perhaps they could start work earlier and stay later and move those cases.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Right.  So the person hit by (yet another) drink driver and paralysed should give 10% of the money awarded, that will they neet to try to live some sort of reasonable life, to the government to pay for a new court? 


    The person who wins a civil case is in the right – accordingly, it was not their fault they had to go to court.  Why should they be taxed in addition to having the misfortune of having to go to court to enforce their rights?

  3. anonymous says:

    The new court building is already designed from 2009 and is sitting on a shelf somewhere. The PPM government commissioned it and I understand it was at an advanced stage when it went on hold. It was located near Jose's gas Station on Crewe Road with lots of parking and access.

    Maybe UDP should pull it out and finish it. Ellio, maybe you can find out where it is and get it going also. It really is needed. It is a shame to have one of the leading financial jurisdictions in the world and still have to go to 'court' in old Kirk House.

    • Anonymous says:

      That's no place for a court.  A court building should not be cheek by jowl with lower class homes and a gas station called Jose's.  It should be in the capital and treat the judges with their chambers there, staff and litigants with some respect for the administration of justice and the dignity of the courts.  I was disgusted with that proposal and remain so.  

      • anonymous says:

        Parking? No need to bring criminals into our Caymankind key location. No more swat team for our tourists to see? Downtown is for retail not for a court building. It’s either out there by airport with easy access to northward or Camana Bay. You choose.

      • Anonymous says:

        What do you mean by lower-class homes? I live near there. Can you explain please.

    • Anonymous says:

      If the PPM comissioned a new courthouse then for God's sake review it before building something as extravagant as the school design.  A gold plated courthouse is something the country cannot afford.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The new court could have been built with the money Mac threw at his favourite churches and voters


    • Anonymous says:

      That would have just covered the overseas consultants and local architects fees of over $2,400,000….yes 2 MILLION fourhundred thousand..awarded to the highest bidder…!!

  5. Anonymous says:

    A couple of questions: how much does it cost to begin an action in the FSD, and how many actions have begun since it was established?

  6. Anonymous says:


    We have daylight year round from 6am TO 6pm,   (3120 HOURS)   why schedule court for 10am and hearings begin whenever you feel like.    how about Saturday thats an additional       52  days   or    624  hours.  

    Yes it may involve getting a few more staff, BUT YOU WILL ASK FOR THEM IN ANY CASE,

    that is a lot cheaper than a new building and all those increased utility/maintenance bills.

    the inner rooms in the Glass House could be used, remove the a/c from the outer rooms and use them as insulation for the inner cutting costs etc.

    HOW MUCH money $$$$ DO THE COURTS CONTRIBUTE TO OUR TREASURY ??? YEA            sort that out. THIS IS 2012 BE BOLD change the STATUS-QUO!!!

    Just a little planning is ALL that needed, what by us you jokin eh. me we dont have de tim

    • Anonymous says:

      You are so bright you should be running the Goverment ! Thank god you are not.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I think the new court should be built by the prison and designated for criminal offences with a secured passage to the prison.  It is also more centrally located for all districts and plenty of room for parking.  The current building could still be used as a court for municiple cases and as a satellite office to pay fine, file documents and such.  The Glass House could be used for civil cases.

  8. Chris says:

    Economic fortunes have changed for the worse since the inception of this proposed court house project. Word has it that the proposed site is across from Jose's gas station.

    Considering that the "govt. is broke" and there is so much vacant space/buildings in town now than before,

    Considering that the govt has this amazing track record of building over budget and fail to complete most major construction projects on time,

    Considering that practically everything else has moved out of George Town, which is supposed to be our political and economic capital (rumour has it that the Monetary Authority is considering moving out to Camana Bay, surprise surprise!) 

    Wouldnt it be easier/wiser to buy one of the many vacant buildings in central George Town and solve the court issue efficiently instead of embarking on another capital project we can ill afford at this time??

    By doing so the govt can save money, they wont have to wait years for a new facility to be built and will keep a major entity in central george town.

    Please consider this option.

    • Anonymous says:

      That woul involve CIG using common sense, which they don't possess.

      Mac and his cronies only possess good ol'Caymanian cents.

    • anonymous says:

      The retrofit to suit the modern day court requirements would take just as long AND in with most renovations one would definately have no control on costs. All that aside the biggest problem for any public building in George Town is parking and access. Most of the buildings that have space have no parking.

      I say move it out of town. Build it when we can.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Just what we need, another bunch of gold plated buildings designed by overseas architects, fronted by verbose local mouthpiece, at enormous over budget expense to the public purse..

  10. So says:

    I guess we have given up on trying to reduce and prevent crime then ?

  11. Anonymous says:

    Funny how we need more courts but not more prison cells. But who I am to judge?

  12. Anonymous says:

    Yeah well I need a new washing machine. Good thing building/paving season soon start.

  13. Anonymous says:

    One word: night court. (ok it's two words

  14. The Spin Cycle says:

    The Court House should be relocated to the new Government Office Building then the guilty will be closer at hand.

    • Anonymous says:

      Excellent idea…why not revamp the glasshouse ,it's there, plenty of parking, out of the crush area of town, next to Govt. attorneys, legal dept etc.

      • Anonymous says:

        I thought the glass house was unfit for habitation.  Or am I getting it confused with another building?

  15. Anonymous says:

    Utter rubbish! The courts Simply need to deal with matters more efficiently and stop constantly putting off cases for stupid pointless reports and if people plead guilty, then sentence them. Why do they need to have a new date for that??
    There are simple cases that have been going on for years that could be dealt with in the same day.
    New buildings will not make the system work any faster.
    If you need more time for courts then have a night court.

    • anonymous says:

      Dealing with cases the way you suggest would only increase the work/cost of the Appellate Court…same difference in caseload but even longer wait.

    • snap shot says:

      Agreeded.  Any one who in the following circumstances who wants a new court house in my view should be asked if he/she has the country's interest in heart.

      1.   country has no money

      2.   civil servants have just come off 3% salary cut after the money has been spent on a court house (kirk house) are we to expect 6% cut

      3      there are so many empty buildings in order to help Cayman can they not be used temporarily 

      4       schools have not been finished  paid for yet

      There are so many empty buildings in order to help cayman can they not be used temporarily. This is not a legacy that is being left behind.This is a large expense that we simply cannot afford.

      I would also add that cases being delayed and probate and cost not being dealt with on time has nothing to do with space bu everything to do with proper administration control and efficiency.

  16. Tiny Briefs says:

    The FSD is being used to fund the rest of the Court system while critical needs of the FSD are being underfunded to the detriment of the reputation of the jurisdiction,  The clearest example of this is the massive backlog in the taxation of costs which is now at crisis levels, is embarrassing to explain to clients and is now leading to advice having to be tailored to explain to successful parties that their costs recoveries will be far less unless they are willing to wait over a year, if not substantially more, for a simple administrative process that used to take a few weeks.

    • snap shot says:

      You are so right it used to take a few weeks or a few days.  There has been a change in staff who did these taxations. It seems that competency here could be the problem. You mean to say that with the many young caymanian lawyers out of work why not 1 of them could not have had the job.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I would think based upon the low conviction rate that more is needed to upgrade the judicial process than simply a new court house. 

    • Anonymous says:

      The low convuiction rate has nothing to do with any failure of the judicial process. It has to do with poorly presented cases.  

  18. Anonymous says:

    Those that are found guilty in criminal court or those that win their cases in civil/financial proceedings should fund the building of a new court house.  For example 10 per cent of any awards coud be a fee that goes towards a court house building fund.  The court house should not be funded on the backs of those persons, Caymanians or other residents, who have not contributed to the increased work load of the courts system.

  19. Anonymous says:

    If you build it, they will come….