High time

| 31/05/2010

This is an open letter to the government, the Human Rights Commission, the legal fraternity and the general public, written in the interest of promoting better governance, greater transparency and justice. A former Member of Parliament called the local radio talk show recently and recounted a situation they considered to have been unfair and declared that true justice would only come on Judgment Day.

I was struck by the obvious concern in his voice and it reminded me again that we all have a duty to do what we can to improve our systems.

We need look no further than the Levers tribunal transcripts to see that even our judges are subject to the same frailties of the human condition that we all are. Everyone at times is subject to emotion, bias and subjectivity, but there can be no doubt the judiciary should expect to be held to higher standards.

Important words were stated by Justice Henderson after his wrongful arrest when he suggested that it should be a requirement for all judges. This statement no doubt sought to emphasize the importance of a key foundation principle of justice, that being the “presumption of innocence”.

A recent court ruling has led to a historic prosecutory appeal which will deal with the other fundamental principle of justice, the standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” to determine someone’s guilt.

One thing is for sure, neither of these judges or their defense teams would have tolerated a situation where their tribunal or case did not have trusted official verbatim transcripts of the proceedings. Ironically, a key issue in the tribunal was the dispute of what had actually transpired in the courtroom which would not have arisen in the first place had there been proper records. Public announcements were also recently made of the move to have more judge only trials as opposed to the more expensive and time consuming jury trials.

As pressure mounts on our justice system to put criminals away, it also becomes correspondingly important to improve the systems that ensure a fair trial for all. One way to help is by implementing an audio-visual record of the proceedings and the production of professionally produced transcripts in a timely manner. This standard should be for both the Summary Court as well as the Grand Court. Cases where the galleries are not filled with members of the public as witnesses should also have the same expectation of fairness.

When the lights of transparency are burning brightly, we can expect improved governance and justice and it’s high time we turned up the dimmer switch.



Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Category: Viewpoint

About the Author ()

Comments (11)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Anon says:

    Official court taped transcripts are always taken in the UK – they should be here also. 

    People wishing to obtain transcripts then contact an official court transcriber and pay them to obtain the recorded proceedings, transribe them, then submit them to the Court for approval (so that anything misheard/mistaken can be corrected).  Once approved, the transcriber sends the transcript to you with their invoice and now you have the official court transcript and can rely on it for any subsequent appeals or hearings.

    Its absolutely absurd to think that someone could appeal a point of law, and yet the parties are left arguing as to what was actually said in the courthouse leading to the lodging of the Appeal itself, because there is no official transcript to rely on.

    • Anonymous says:

      Official verbatim transcripts. Who needs them?  Constitutional talks transcripts – who needs them?  Official Court transcripts – who needs them?

      Guess who loses without these very important documents? The poor man who cant afford an expensive attorney.

    • Anonymous says:

      Read the Judge levers tribunal news report. No one, not even a judge should be above the law.  They too make mistakes. If there had been audio/visual records of court sessions, this costly tribunal could have been avoided. 

      When proceedings are recorded, everyone is on their best behavior and there is a greater chance that justice will is dispensed.


    • Anonymous says:

      That may be the case in the UK (and all first world countries) but this is the Cayman Islands.

      Remember that every person facing charges in court here is up against or facing REGINA – the British Crown. The government is not likely to voluntary change the established system.  Why would they want to? The state is the one bringing the charges against the accused.  They are not likely to go out of their way to make changes (even if they are clearly just and fair) that make it more difficult to get convictions.

      However if the prosecution have done their job and the court trial and ruling are fair and just, there should be argument against having a proper accurate record of the proceedings.

      No changes will be made if the people do not insist. Powerful and wealthy people have less to fear, but the ordinary person, well that is another matter. 


      • Anonymous says:

        i agree – but i assume you meant "…there should be NO argument…"

    • Anonymous says:

      The Caymanian Compass has an interesting editorial today.   It speaks to the likely fear of local lawyers to speak honestly and frankly in the tribunal.

      We owe a great debt of gratitude to the court reporters of Grand Court for doing what they obviously thought was the right thing to do. 

      Unfortunetaly there is so such defence or check and balance in the Summary or lower court system.

      To all you poor people out there, if you ever appear in Summary court – make sure you elect to have your case heard in Grand Court and ask for a jury trial. You have a much greater chance for justice.  And because you cannot afford it – file for legail aid from Steve Mcfield and Teresa.

      Then maybe we will get some action.


  2. martin says:

    Do you think the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will follow suit when they allowed Governor Jack and his Met Team to do an injustice to this island, arresting one of our top Justices all to pin him down and others for corruption?

    They did a very poor job!

    And lost each case with their flimsy evidence!  What an embarrassment when they had to settle with the renown Caymanian Judge for over a million!

    • O'Really says:

      If you are going to rate the performance of the various players in the Henderson fiasco, don’t forget to include Carson and Donnie Ebanks. Surely you want to give credit where credit’s due to two of Cayman’s own? 

  3. islandman says:

    Very true…but also very likely to be resisted by the powers that be…simply because it would in fact produce what you call for, and what we should all strive for…but also what many of the powers obviously don’t…Transparency!

    • Anonymous says:

      I think this is a great idea.  Not only would we have a accurate record of the trial, but it could help with local TV programming. 

      "Cayman Court TV" or "Judge Ramsey" has a nice ring to it.

      good luck getting this one approved. they will not agree to this.

      • Anonymous says:

        The current system is fundamentally flawed. The judge makes notes during the trial and returns to court sometimes weeks later and delivers a summary of testimony and a verdict. The summary will therefore support the verdict and thats no surprise.

        What is possible under this system however, is that inconvenient facts, conflicting testimony arising during the trial may not make it into the summary.

        If there is no verbatim transcripts it is very difficult to prove. Also findings of fact by the judge (even if they are not fact) are not subject to review under appeal.

        Lets have the transcripts, then there can be no argument about who said what.