JP bill aims to curb potential misuse of power

| 11/12/2014

(CNS): Government has passed an amendment to the Summary Jurisdiction Law giving new powers to Cabinet members over Justices of the Peace, their appointment and training, as well as their removal from the post. The bill, presented by Premier and Home Affairs Minister Alden McLaughlin last month, gives Cabinet the power to set the procedure for nomination of JPs, what is required for their training, the arrangements of any tribunal called to hear complaints made against them and the ability to assess “the fitness of a Justice of the Peace to serve” after they reach 70 years of age.  The idea is to set out regulations that will lessen the position’s potential for misuse of power, the premier revealed.

Following the Sandra Catron case, in which a search warrant signed by a JP was thrown out of court, the Progressives-led government said that it needed to change the law to allow for the creation of regulations to address the selection, training and code of conduct for justices of the peace. The Catron case as well as the arrest of a High Court judge during Operation Tempura led to calls for an increase in regulatory capacity over JPs' powers to sign arrest and search warrants.

When he presented the amendments, McLaughlin pointed out that the Bill of Rights requires all public officials to ensure that decisions made are lawful, proportionate, procedurally fair and transparent. He spoke about the need for them to remain impartial and to disclose interests to anyone seeking their services. He said they are not allowed to receive a fee or gifts for those services.

During the debate, Arden McLean (East End) accused the premier of an “affront” to some of those holding the position whom have decades of experience in law, by insinuating they were not capable of carrying out their tasks as JPs. However, he accepted lay JPs did need training. McLean also assured the premier in regards to his remaining silent on the matter, “That not gonna happen.”

North Side member Ezzard Miller, who is a JP, said he was resigning from the role because the government was changing what it was meant to be and people, particularly civil servants, were being appointed for the wrong reasons. He said the training sessions he had attended recently was inadequate and described it as demeaning. Miller said the best way to address the problem relating to warrants is to simply remove their right to sign warrants, as that should be left to magistrates and judges only.

In his response to the debate, McLaughlin said McLean was making “mountains out of molehills” but that in this case there was “not even a molehill”. He derided the comments as McLean getting a “soapbox” to stand on and preach.

He also stressed the importance of such regulations for a position that has in the past been open to misconduct, and told the East End representative that he should really be supporting the measures to ensure the regulation of such a potentially powerful role.

The governor will still be in charge of appointing JPs but within a regulatory framework set out by elected officials. The new powers of Cabinet over this branch of the judiciary will alter the dynamic of the position of JP. As a result, there are some concerns about the ability of the JP’s, in their role as judicial officials, to act independently of the executive. The law provides Cabinet with what has been described as “potentially ambiguous powers over JPs misconduct”.

While this is a legitimate concern, so is the notion of an unaccountable and unregulated body of JPs that could potentially repeat the mistakes and misconduct that Cayman has seen in the past few years.

The bill was carried with 11 ‘ayes’ from the government benches in the face of five ‘noes’ from the opposition and independent members. 

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Legal blunders could cost public purse dear

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Ms. Catron! Some controls have been put in place because of your audacity to stand up for what's right!

    • Fred the Piemaker says:

      audacity to stand up for what's right? – she was defending herself against criminal charges, not running a test case against the police 

      • Anonymous says:

        No she challenged a system that has been broken a long time that high paid lawyers were not challenging for their own clients. AND she did all of that on her own without a lawyer. Recall this is someone who has no actual legal training as yet. So yes, that took a lot of balls to do and as a result she has changed the system for the better. Might I add that was something not even Judge Henderson did after he walked away with over $1M of our money. 

      • Anonymous says:

        More than any of you have done I bet! Get off this page and do something that will make Cayman better. How about that? Easy to sit and chat foolishness huh?

  2. Anonymous says:



  3. Anonymous says:

    Does Hansard just list the contributions of Arden and Ezzard as "blah, blah, blah"?

    • Anonymous says:

      Ezzard has a point. Why are they signing warrants anyway? There is a boatload of judges and magistrates available who are actually qualified to review and sign warrants. Many expensive errors would be avoided. It makes it look like the police want pets who will sign anything.




      • Anonymous says:

        The JPs ae signing because they work for free while the judges want you to pay them if you're going to expand their job to include warrants as well. It would serve us right if the JPs said 'forget this' to the duty to review and sign warrants. – And, lets be honest, its not something that should need a legal expert. The threshold is 'would a reasonable person think the warrant was sound'. Like with juries there is a point to having 'your peers' review thngs like warants and the case against you. Otherwise you have government legislating the crime, investigating the crime, issuing the warrant, presenting the evidence and judging the evidence. Different arms of government, maybe, but still all part of the same aparatus if you wanted to create a totalitarian state.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Let's stop the Jp numbers seling then

    • Anony-me says:

      Only way to do that is for you to (a) send what you know to the police and then (b) name and shame (JP & Officer you gave evidene to) if nothing is done. SO, are you willing to do something?

      • Anonymous says:

        This was reported to a previous governor and prior to the confirmed appointment of the said JP and after appointment to no avail. This is what happens in the Cayman Islands when JP's are politically appointed. Like we a re all saying CORRUPTION is alive and well in Cayman.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I really hope under OMOV we can combine NS and EE and have just one seat. Having these two constant malcontents always being negative and insulting about everything is, true to God, very tiresome and tiring.

    • Anonymous says:

      Grumpy Old Men.

    • noname says:

      We know that is your real reason for proposing that, but thank God for Arden and Ezzard! Without them many times we would be in the dark and not have a clue what is going on. They are the real opposition, not Mac and crew.