Witness no-shows slow court

The Cayman Islands court system was forced to delay proceedings in some cases this week because witnesses simply failed to show up.

But it wasn’t the fault of the witnesses. Instead, it seems local police weren’t getting the job done.

The courts notified the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service a few weeks ago that there was a backlog of some 3,000 witness summons which needed to be served. It is the responsibility of RCIPS officers to personally deliver the summons.

At least two cases which came before Acting Magistrate Valdis Foldats Tuesday had to be delayed because of no-show witnesses.

The RCIPS has accepted responsibility for the delays, and said it had already taken some action to correct the situation.

‘The problem they had in court (Tuesday)…was that the witnesses didn’t turn up, because the summons hadn’t been served,’ said police spokesperson Deborah Denis. ‘The witnesses didn’t know they were due to be in court.’

Ms Denis said as of Wednesday the number of outstanding witness summons had dropped to just below 1,000. She said the RCIPS had temporarily assigned extra officers to deliver the documents, and that the number of summons still to be served would fluctuate from day to day.

‘In the short term, we are getting more officers to get the summons out there,’ said Ms Denis. She said that shouldn’t affect police staffing because those officers would only be taken from areas of the department where they could be spared.

RCIPS said longer-term solutions which involved communication between court staff and the police would be looked at, along with the issue of whether police officers should be the ones responsible for serving witness summons.

The Cayman Islands Human Rights Committee released a statement Thursday which noted that improperly serving witness summons may potentially give rise to a breach of a person’s right to liberty, if it situation causes ‘an unreasonable delay in the trial process.’

However, the HRC statement also said each case where delays happened must be assessed independently. The committee said it did not have enough facts on the specific court cases to determine whether such a breach of liberty had occurred.