Criminal case outcomes unknown

The Portfolio of Legal Affairs does not keep formal statistics on the outcomes of the cases it prosecutes in the courts system, a Caymanian Compass Freedom of Information request has revealed.

Computer software used by the portfolio does not allow for the tracking of outcomes of criminal prosecutions, meaning it cannot provide statistics on the number of convictions and acquittals prosecutors have achieved in recent years, a response to the FOI request stated.

However, Information Manager Jenesha Boorasingh-Simpson said the portfolio is considering bringing in a formal policy of recording the outcomes of Grand Court cases, adding that an informal system was implemented in 2007.

Details of the 2007 case outcomes were included in the response given to the Compass but 2008 outcomes are not available, Mrs. Boorasingh-Simpson said.

Provisional figures for 2007 Grand Court criminal cases showed that of 67 cases, there were 17 guilty pleas, 20 guilty verdicts and 15 not guilty verdicts.

A further four cases were dismissed after the Crown offered no evidence; three cases were dismissed after the judge ruled there was no case to answer; two cases were simply listed as discharged; there was one hung jury; one defendant died before coming to court; one case was dismissed for want of prosecution; one case was discharged after the complainant refused to pursue the matter; one case was discharged after the Crown decided not to pursue the matter; and one matter was left on file.

The portfolio did not have any statistics on the outcomes of cases before the Summary Court.

Chief Justice Anthony Smellie said recently that 1,506 criminal charges came before the Summary Court in 2008, up from 1,404 in 2007. There were 188 indictments in the Grand Court in 2008, up from 180 in 2007.

Prosecuting services in other jurisdictions have long used case outcome statistics as an accountability benchmark.

The England and Wales’ Crown Prosecution Service offers a monthly analysis of Magistrate Court and Crown Court cases on its website, giving figures for successful and unsuccessful prosecutions by offence. The report for October 2007, for instance, shows that 71.9 per cent of defendants charged with sexual offences were convicted.

In Australia, the New South Wales Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions’ Annual report uses a range of performance indicators to showcase its performance.

In its 2007/08 annual report, for instance, it notes that 77 per cent of all summary and district court cases resulted in a plea or finding of guilt and that costs were only awarded against the prosecution in .05 per cent of cases as a result of the conduct of the prosecution.

Attempts to reach Solicitor General Cheryll Richards for comment had been unsuccessful as of press time Tuesday.