Backlog doubles criminal trials

For at least the next six months, there will be two Grand Court criminal trials going on at the same time.

The doubling up is necessary because of the backlog of cases. Chief Justice Anthony Smellie announced at the opening of Grand Court on Wednesday that there were 64 indictments from last year or previous years that had not yet been dealt with.

If there are as many new indictments this year as there were last year – 79 – there would be severe delays in bringing criminal cases to trial, he said.

That state of affairs would be unacceptable, so the Grand Court will take two trials simultaneously. Listings are already in place through June and this arrangement will continue ‘until the troubling trend has been arrested.’

On Wednesday afternoon Mr. Smellie spoke with people who had been summoned for jury duty. He told them that the first set of two simultaneous trials was scheduled for Monday, 9 January.

One trial will take place in Court 1, the usual venue for Grand Court. The other trial will most likely take place in Court 5, on the second floor of Kirk House, across the street from the Law Courts Building.

The expected procedure is that prospective jurors will report to Court 1 and the jury for that trial will be selected.

Persons not selected will then go to the other court room for possible selection.

In his remarks on Wednesday morning, Mr. Smellie said he had been assured that arrangements for the scheduled trials had been made by the Listing officer with the Crown and Defence attorneys ‘and everything is in place to proceed.’

Cayman’s Grand Court consists of the Chief Justice and two other full-time judges. From time to time, judges come from other jurisdictions to assist on a short-term basis.

In addition to criminal cases and appeals from the Summary Court, the judges of the Grand Court deal with several civil cases and divorces.

In 2005, for example, 594 civil actions were filed and 200 divorces. By comparison, the Chief Justice said there were 495 civil actions in 2004 and 171 divorces.