Law enforcement overhaul planned

Some major changes will be made in Cayman Islands’ law enforcement in the coming months, including the establishment of a civilian complaints body for police and changes to certain laws regarding search and seizure, and detention of people who’ve been arrested.

Mr. Bulgin

Mr. Bulgin

Attorney General Sam Bulgin said an oversight body known as the Criminal Justice Strategy Management group will also be formed consisting of top ranking elected and appointed government officials.

‘This will be a multi-agency approach to this endemic (crime) problem,’ Mr. Bulgin said.

Mr. Bulgin said a revamped Police Law will likely be presented to the Legislative Assembly in the coming weeks to help ‘bring greater clarity to the role of the RCIP (Royal Cayman Islands Police).’

He said the bill would create an independent civilian complaints body that would provide greater transparency in how complaints made against police are dealt with. The new proposal will also make changes to current police powers of search and seizure, pre-detention, and a defendant’s right to counsel.

All three issues have been hot topics of discussion within the last year.

Last year, RCIPS commanders proposed a change in the law which would allow officers to perform warrant-less searches of homes where residents were suspected of possessing illegal firearms. That proposal has not yet come before lawmakers.

Police pre-detention powers, allowing authorities to hold individuals up to 12 days without charging them with an offence have come under criticism lately from defence attorneys. But Mr. Bulgin gave no indication of what changes might be made there.

He said the public would have a chance to review and make recommendations on proposed changes to the Police Law.

Mr. Bulgin said changes will also be made to Cayman’s Proceeds of Criminal Conduct Law and that lawmakers would get a chance to approve a new Anti-Corruption Bill, which provides penalties for corruption-related offences in public office. Both of those proposals are currently being reviewed by legislators.

The Criminal Justice Strategy Management group has been approved by Cabinet and was expected to be formed shortly, Mr. Bulgin said. Among its members: a representative from the Chief Justice’s office, the Leader of Government Business, the Cayman Islands Chief Secretary, the Police Commissioner, the Attorney General, the Health Minister, the Minister of Education, the Chief Immigration Officer, and the Customs Collector. Mr. Bulgin said the Governor would chair the meetings.

The group seemed somewhat similar to the National Security Council elected government members have proposed to create in the country’s revised constitution. However, Mr. Bulgin said the two groups would have different remits.

He said the criminal justice group would have a ‘much wider focus’ to include the regional coordination of crime fighting efforts, such as witness protection issues, forensic testing services and law enforcement training. The group is also expected to help consolidate local crime fighting strategies such as the Cayman Islands drug court and probation and aftercare services.

Mr. Bulgin said the National Security Council, of whom the attorney general will be a member, will be much more directly focused on crime fighting and border protection issues.

Some funding from the United Kingdom may be available for the staff of the Criminal Justice Strategy Management group, Mr. Bulgin said.

‘The Leader of Government Business secured agreement from other Caribbean (Overseas Territories),’ he said. ‘We’re confident there will be political support (for the effort).’