Number of questionable warrants unknown

| 06/08/2013

(CNS): Following shocking revelations in a recent court case that a justice of the peace had signed a police warrant without having a clue what it was for, what the crime was or seeing any evidence to support it, concerns have been raised that there may be many more such examples. However, an FOI request to the RCIPS reveals that the police have no record system dealing with what warrants have been signed and by whom, as each one is attached to the criminal case file. The RCIPS has told an applicant looking for details of who has signed warrants and why over the last three years that her request was being was refused on the grounds that the police would have to search through more than 8,500 files to try and comply.

The request made by Sandra Catron, the local activist who exposed the fact that a warrant used for her arrest and to search her home, office and car in an abuse of an ICT network case was fundamentally flawed because the JP not understand the alleged crime, he was given no evidence and he did not swear the oath but merely signed the warrant at the request of the officers. The man also admitted that in more than two decades as a JP he had never refused to sign a warrant.

This has raised concerns that many other warrants may have been signed in similar circumstances. While the Commissioner of Police David Baines has now changed the procedure regarding warrants, the revelation means that could be many, many more arrest warrants that were not properly executed and may have been signed by the same JP or others who were not aware of the law, had not seen any evidence or had not sworn an oath. This means that hundreds of arrests, charges and ultimatelyconvictions could be called into question if it was found that warrants were obtained unlawfully.

Despite the possibility of hundreds of flawed warrants, the police do not know how many warrants may have been signed by the JP in the Catron case or by other JPs who may be equally unaware of the law surrounding warrants and under what circumstances they should be signed.

However, when Catron submitted her request for details of warrants for just the last three years that had been signed by JPs, the RCIPS information manager said that the police did not keep a warrant record system. He explained that the warrants were attached to the criminal case files and that is where they stay as they wind through the justice process and then into the archives.

“After warrants have been executed they remain with the investigative files throughout the investigation, when files are submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions office by the RCIPS for ruling and when the matters are before the courts,” said Raymond Christian, the RCIPS information manager. He said that after the matters have been disposed of by the courts and the files are returned to the RCIPS through the DPP’s office, the warrants remain with the files until they are filed in accordance with the Cayman Islands National archives and public records law. 

Christian explained in a letter to the applicant (see below) that the RCIPS does not have a search warrant retrieval system where warrants can be identified and retrieved separately. If an internal enquiry was to be made of all police officers who obtained and executed search warrants going back three years, the information may not be accurate because officers have left the service, he said. Between June 2010 and June 2013 the police recorded a total of 8,567 separate crimes.

“In order for us to accurately answer your question we would have to physically search through about 8,567 files, which would unreasonably divert our resources,” the police information boss told the applicant, as he cited the section of the FOI law under which he was refusing the request.

After the court found that the Catron warrant was flawed and the arrest and search unlawful, the judge paved the way for Catron to apply for damages, which will come from the public purse. The revelation that there could be a large number criminal case files stored by the police with warrants attached to them that no one can say for sure were executed correctly could lead to many arrests being called into question.

Following the response from Christian refusing her request, Catron told CNS that she was considering her options and may request an internal review.

Related articles on CNS:

Legal blunders could cost the public purse dear

Top cop changes JP policy

Category: FOI

Comments (27)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    LISTEN TO THIS CRAP: The RCIPS has told the applicant looking for details of who has signed warrants, and why, over the last three years, that her request was being was refused on the grounds that"THE POLICE WOULD HAVE TO SEARCH THROUGH SOME 8,500 FILES! Well I have news for you! If it were "85,000" files you are obligated to do the search, "BECAUSE THE RCIP IS NOT ABOVE THE LAW". And since  the law states that the people has a right to know, then stop making excuses and do what you have sworn under oath to do! "UPHOLD THE LAW" and get the files!!

  2. Anonymous says:

    When the Police talk about incident files, they are not talking about a searchable catalogue on a computer, but physical hanging files in drawers assigned to a case officer, like how one might imagine crime fighting from the 1950's.  Sure they have computers, but that is only so that they can poke in a case synopsis and print it off on their dot matrix printer, stamp it, and put it in the physical file.  Anyone who has had to go down to GT Police HQ to dictate one of these reports will know how painful it is to endure.  If the case officer assigned is away, or not on shift, the file does not move forward.  That is the state of crime fighting in the Cayman Islands.  

  3. Anonymous says:

    What a sad state of affairs!!! How is this even possible? No proper records that can easily be obtained? Well guess what? Someone is going to be busy in the warehouses for a while!

    • Anonymous says:

      If I were Whodatis, I would say that this definitely is because the UK so wishes this to be and that Tony Blair is ultimately responsible for this. At least, based on his recent poor form that is what he would say. Unless of course the wind is from the North East, in which case it would be David Cameron's fault, and if from the North West then its down to Duncan Taylor. Could not be possibly anything to do with incompentence here in Cayman. No No No.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The actions of the JP should be investigated. How can someone holding such an important position sign a warrant without understanding it or going through any kind of due process. How did he/she even get to be a JP?, it seems like blatant incompetence. Why isn't Ms, Catron suing the JP?

    • Anonymous says:

      She did sue him and the judge (during the hearing) said he would not be holding the JP accountable as it was obvious that the RCIPS had been using him and also obvious to anyone that he was not competent.

  5. Anonymous says:

    The implications of this FOI are HUGE from a legal and human rights perspective!! I can see criminal decisions being overturned on appeal because of the lack of information on oath issues. I have to wonder – why has no other lawyer ever brought this up? How is it that Sandra Catron, who is not even called to the bar as yet, open up this Pandora's box on the government? She's one smart cookie if you ask me!! WOW …

    • Anonymous says:

      Would certainly be nice if you and the post before you signed your name. A famous Cayman Brac lady used to write the most beautiful letters to herself and would go around reading them to the neighbourhood making believe that some great guy had wrote them.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sandra please stop commenting on the story. Unfortunately your writing style is very obvious and the WOW Comment at the end gave it away. SMH.. Attention seekers really make me laugh at times

  6. Knot S Smart says:

    I think a more shocking question is – what qualifies these JP's to be appointed in the first place…

    • Anonymous says:

      Politrix me love, politrix, that is all it takes to qualify to be a JP.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Baines and his ineptitude

  8. Anonymous says:

    Good story CNS, keep kicking them. It appears that despite departing Governor Duncan Taylor's comments either the lessons of Operation Tempura have not been learned by RCIPS or their officers are simply still copying the shoddy example set by the Met officers back in 2008.

  9. marius voiculescu says:

    My quick two cents…  Why is this not a surprise…?  I would think that the responsility lies with the Director of Public Prosecutions, and the Attorney General previous to that.  Ultimately is is they who are responsible to ensure that everything leading up to the court case has been conducted according to the letter of the law.  Until now, they have had very little incentive to do anything properly, and as per their standard modus operandi, appear to continue to fly by their seat of their pants.  Thankfully, there are a number of intelligent judges (e.g. the Honourable Henderson) who ensures that proper procedures and the law are followed.  Re. Ms. Catron's present case, though I am not aware of the particulars of her case and can therefore not comment on her guilt or innocence (CNS would not be allowed to publish it anyway), what I have observed over the past number of years is a continued effort to "prosecute" this lady over matters which I'm sure that the AG and Director of PP consider groundbreaking, matters such as little "doggie abductions", etc.

    Marius Voiculescu

  10. Anonymous says:

    The CIG will regret the day they did not settle with Sandra Catron – She will be like a dog with a bone! LOL … good luck to them!

  11. Weapons Grade Bollocks says:

    What exactly does RCIP blow $50,000,000 on? Year after year after year.

    This is a real mystery and a warrant should be issued!!

    • Anonymous says:

      Gasoline!

    • And another Ting says:

      NO seriously .Arent the officers made t keep some form oof diaries of their activities which are insected from time to time to determine their time being spent is of value.  How else can you determine whether these guys work.  If a diary or log  systemwas in place then it would be relatively easy to go through these logs and determine where warrants are issued etc.

      we need value for money from the RCIP and accountability fom its CHiefs.  And another Ting

    • Anonymous says:

      CIG is saying "Damn you Sandra Catron"!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      Employing gardners, and training them to become some sort of police.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I was arrested the other day for wearing a loud shirt in a built up area…does that count as questionable?