Call, lawyer for suspects

For what’s believed to be the first time, the law governing Cayman Islands police officers has included certain sections detailing the rights of individuals following their arrest.

Acting Police Commissioner David George said Tuesday that these principles have long been accepted local practice among Royal Cayman Islands Police officers and proposed changes to the Police Law will simply codify them.

‘Fundamentally, (it) isn’t going to have a great impact on what we do,’ Mr. George said.

Section 62 (1) of the Police Bill (2008 Revision) requires police to notify a person they are being arrested and the grounds for that arrest either before they are taken into custody, or as soon as possible afterward.

‘No arrest is lawful unless the person arrested is informed of the ground for the arrest at the time of, or as soon as is practicable after, the arrest,’ according to section 62 (3) of the proposal.

The bill also states that police would not have to inform a person as to the reason for their arrest if they escaped before that information could be given.

People who are arrested would also have the right to contact a family member or friend and speak with an attorney within 24 hours of being taken into custody, unless specific circumstances allow or a further delay of 24 hours is authorised by a police superintendent.

For instance, an officer could allow the suspect’s right to make a phone call to family members to be delayed if they believed it would lead to ‘interference with or harm evidence connected with an indictable offence or interference with or physical injury to other persons,’ or if would lead to ‘alerting of other persons suspected of having committed – an offence but not yet arrested for it.’

Similar reasons could be given for disallowing a suspect’s right to contact an attorney, depending on the circumstances of the case.

Although police must inform a person who is arrested that they are under arrest and the reasons for that arrest, it does not appear officers must inform them of their rights to make a phone call to family members, friends or contact an attorney upon arrest, according to the text of the bill.

Both sections 63 and 64 of the Police Bill (2008 Revision) state: ‘A person — shall be entitled, if he so requests’ to contact family members, friends and/or a lawyer.

Mr. George said Tuesday that there would be ‘training implications’ arising out of other areas of the revised Police Bill. The proposal is due to come before the Legislative Assembly for a vote later this year.

Although previous versions of the Police Law do set out certain guidelines for evidence gathering methods, the Police Bill (2008 Revision) provides much more detailed guidelines on when things such as fingerprints, evidence samples and photographs can be taken and how those should be handled.

For example, section 34 of the revised bill would not allow a person’s fingerprints to be taken by an officer unless that person gives consent or unless certain requirements were met. But if the person was arrested or charged, they would be required to give fingerprints. Reasonable suspicion that the person had committed an offence would also allow an officer to take prints against a person’s will.

Last month, the RCIPS was visited by scientific support officers from the United Kingdom who reviewed evidence testing procedures and who attended crime scenes with civilian staff that RCIPS employs to process evidence.

Mr. George said the UK officers gave his staff high marks in comparison with the rest of the British Overseas Territories in the Caribbean. He said he was reviewing the recommendations made by the scientific support officers, which were aimed at improving RCIPS evidence gathering techniques.