Court of Appeal enters new era

The end of an era came in August 2008 when the first president of the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal retired.

Justice Edward Zacca, who had headed the court since its inception in 1984, let it be known he was not retiring willingly. He said the Governor, Mr. Stuart Jack, had determined the age of 75 years as the retirement age of judges. Mr. Zacca was 77.

Justice Martin Taylor retired during the March-April session for the same reason. He was also 77.

When the Court of Appeal met for the winter session in November-December, Acting President Ian Forte was the member with the most seniority, having been appointed in 2004.

Sitting with him were Justice Elliot Mottley, appointed in 2005, and Justice Geoffrey Vos, sworn in before the session started.

Justice Abdulai Conteh and new president Sir John Chadwick were sworn in during the session, but did not sit.

For the first time, the court is now comprised of five justices, three of whom will sit at any one time.

In his several retirement speeches, Justice Zacca referred to the growth of the court’s load in terms of serious criminal cases and ever more complex civil matters. His remarks were reinforced by a statement from the Governor’s Office when the names of the new justices were announced: ‘The new appointees bring a wealth of commercial experience that will prove invaluable to the Cayman Islands’

Coincidentally, Justice Forte observed during the last session of the year that all appeals except one had been in criminal matters. (Later, with one matter adjourned the court did have time to deal with a second civil case.)

On a day they dealt with four persons appealing sentences for burglary, Justice Elliot Mottley suggested it might be time to review sentencing guidelines, which were last adjusted in 2002. He said conditions in this country had changed since the guidelines were issued by the Chief Justice.

All four burglary appellants had their appeals against length of sentence dismissed. The last one, in leaving the courtroom, passed another appellant coming in and told him, ‘Well, I wish you luck, boy.’

But the wish was to no avail, as the judges dismissed an appeal against consecutive six-month sentences for repeat marine life violations. They noted especially that one set of offences was committed while a suspended sentence was in effect.

Two appeals were partially successful. The court reduced a sentence for defilement from five years to three; a sentence of two years for importation and possession of an unlicensed air rifle from two years to one year.

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