Changes pave way for court-prison video link

| 30/01/2014

(CNS): Although government announced over two years ago that it had plans to use video links for remand prisons at Northward for short court appearances, so far not one prisoner has made a court appearance via the equipment. This seems to be as a result of the relevant law, which appeared to hinder the ability of the courts to hear cases via teleconferencing. However, an amendment to section 60 of the criminal procedure code, which passed in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday, will finally enable judges at their discretion to hear remand cases and mentions via a link between the court and the prisons.

The hope is that this will cut costs for the prison and courts, lower security risks and keep more prison officers at Northward rather than policing the court jails.

Although many remand prisoners are brought to the courts every day for a variety of reasons, a significant proportion of the appearances are very brief, sometimes a matter of a few minutes. Requests for adjournments for numerous reasons, attorneys seeking documents and disclosures setting and altering trial dates, and making elections for trial can be a matter of seconds, yet every prisoner is brought to the courts and has to be kept in the overcrowded and poor quality facilities there often for the whole day, despite making a less than five minute appearance.

The use of a video link will enable "virtual" remand hearings and cut costs for government.

Two years ago, when the equipment was expected to be in use within a view weeks of the announcement, Dwight Scott, the then prison director, revealed that around 100 Category-A and -B prisoners and persons on remand are transported to and from the courts every week, including those charged with murder, rape and serious violence.

At least three prison staff and two vehicles are dedicated to processing and transporting remand prisoners each day.

Although it is not clear if the intention is to follow the original plan, but in January 2012 officials had said the CCTV system will use two separate sound-proof rooms at Northward. One will be with a 'dock' that will enable the judiciary to confirm that the inmate is secured in custody and allow hearings and questioning from the courtroom. A separate room, also equipped with CCTV, will allow confidential conversations between persons on remand and their attorneys.

"Deploying this technology removes the need to transport dangerous persons outside the prison gates, thereby removing many risk factors,” Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs Deputy Chief Officer Eric Bush said at the time. He also said that many issues had been taken into consideration, including the human rights of those detained, but apparently not the law.

Government laid out some $85,000 on the technology, which it had hoped to recoup within eight months. However, because it has not been used yet, government is still out of pocket.

Category: Crime

Comments (2)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I’m happy to hear that, the govt will save a lot of $$ rather than have to transfer them daily! Caymanian

    • Anonymous says:

      True, but they have actually already had this for a longtime..facebook, facetime, instagram etc all on those mobiles which are not allowed…