Justice must comply with BoR

| 18/01/2012

scales%20of%20justice.jpg(CNS): The issue of the length of time it takes for criminal matters to be dealt with by the justice system will become a major issue once the bill of rights comes into effect in November of this year, members of the judiciary have warned. The forthcoming bill of rights requires not just fairness in the system but timeliness as well, which may present a problem for Cayman’s overloaded court system. On Friday a case due for Summary Court appeal illustrated the problem when it was revealed that a convicted drug dealer had received his judgement two and a half years after his trial had opened, leaving the conviction vulnerable.

Justice Alex Henderson, who has been warning attorneys on both sides of the system for some time about the potential problems delays in the system, no matter the reason, questioned if it could possibly be right for a judgement to be given two and a half years after the start of a trial as he warned, once again, of the legal challenges likely to arise over these kinds of delays.

The reasons for the delay in this particular case was explained by the attorneys involved, which began with an appeal against a decision by the magistrate a part way through the trial, which stayed proceedings until a Grand Court decision was made. Following this decision, a packed Summary Court docket and busy lawyers on both sides delayed the restart, which resulted in the decision being handed down so long after the case was first aired before the magistrate. 

The judge, however, pointed out that once the bill of rights is implemented the constitutional rights of the defendants will over-ride the issues of defence and crown lawyers' packed diaries.

The appeal, which is due to be heard in February, is just one case among many that is impacted by the problems faced by the local court system, which does not have enough court rooms and magistrates to deal with the summary court criminal cases, nor does it have enough lawyers willing to take on legal aid cases. Less than ten percent of local advocates have submitted their names to be considered for public defending work.

Of the list of 50-plus lawyers that are willing to take legal aid cases from the 520 licensed attorneys in Cayman, most deal with family and divorce cases, leaving around a dozen lawyers to handle the massive case load of criminal work passing through the summary and grand courts. Cases are perpetually adjourned because defence counsel are simply unable to be in three or four places at once.

The onset of the bill of rights will also see the introduction of a formal duty solicitor programme at the police station to ensure that an attorney is always available 24/7 to advise those who have been arrested and face immediate police interview. This shift system will place a further burden on the limited pool of legal aid criminal lawyers.

The bill of rights forms part of the Cayman Islands Constitution 2009 and its implementation was delayed by three years to give the local government time to meet the legal requirements of the bill. It will be officially in effect, however, regardless of whether or not government is ready, by November of this year.

Category: Crime

Comments (11)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    The jiudge is simply wrong if he is saying that delays and appeals by the defense are not relevant. If they have enough money to work with, the defense can string a case out for a very long time..

  2. Anonymous says:

    Wait, let me see if I’ve got this right. The reason for all the delays is not enough lawyers? In Cayman? SMH!

  3. Anonymous says:

    ECHR Article 6 is very clear on this –  everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law.

    Quite what 'a reasonable time' might be construed as is obviously open to some interpretation but two and a half years is definitely pushing things.

    This is a ticking timebomb, which will ultimately result in guilty people getting off on a technicality.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I am sure legal dept. adds to these delays also with lost files or incomplete paperwork.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Is it not possible for court to start at 8am and run all day until 5-6pm?

    • Anonymous says:

      Nowhere I am aware of does this.  There is a legitimate need for attorneys to be able to have time in thebusiness day before and after Court to deal with matters as they arise on a hearing.

  6. Anonymous says:

    and Gov will give BOR to all the indians for shettys project…wait til they start piling in:

     

  7. Like It Is says:

    Maybe this will comes as a shock, but if Cayman wants better public services maybe there should be income tax?

    • Anonymous says:

      Not sure that ‘Cayman’ does want the better public services. Maybe it’s just us outsiders. Just a thought

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes just throw money at the problem a lame solution for sure.

  8. so Anonymous says:

    In other words "STILL" third world.  

    But trying.