Poor not denied justice

I write to correct erroneous statements published in your 7 February Caymanian Compass article regarding access to the Cayman Islands courts.

In particular, the article contains the statement: ‘anyone bringing a case to the civil court must come up with $750 a day to get a hearing.’

In fact, the correct position is that it does not automatically cost any person $750 in order to hear a claim. Instead, in keeping with the Court Fees Rules, it does cost $200 to bring – in other words, to file – a civil case in the Grand Court. Once a case has been filed, other hearing costs may be incurred, depending on the number of hearing days required by the particular claim.

Local persons who are unable to afford the hearing fees may apply for legal aid.

The Chief Justice remains firm in defending their right to do so.

In 2007 alone, 126 persons were given legal aid in civil cases. (This is apart from the 172 persons who were represented on legal aid on criminal charges). Further, Cabinet has been asked to allow some hearing fees to be discounted, a provision that would apply to financially-hampered local claimants who might otherwise be prevented from pursuing a just claim.

This is important because court fees are never intended to obstruct the due administration of justice.

Additionally, the hearing fees of $750 per day mainly apply to complex and lengthy commercial cases that arise from our financial industry and which take up more than 60 percent of our judges’ time. The hearing fees are necessary to help recover court costs and are negligible when compared to the immense value of the assets, which are typically at stake in those kinds of cases.

These hearing fees are, moreover, not in any way applicable to cases that involve matrimonial or other family related issues, such as the welfare of children; nor are any hearing fees payable in the Summary Court where claims may be brought for amounts up to $20,000.

Most important to emphasise, the Courts of the Cayman Islands are readily available to all persons in need of their protection, whatever their financial status. I feel it essential to present these points to the public and in so doing, correct any mistaken concerns caused by misconceptions or wrong information.

Delene Cacho – Court administrator