In what has previously been considered an unusual crime-fighting tactic in the Cayman Islands, police have this week released a photo and description of a man wanted in relation to firearms offences.
The suspect, 28-year-old Royce Leon Cornwall, is believed to be in Cayman and may be receiving assistance from family or friends, according to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.
‘We want to locate this man as soon as possible and would welcome any assistance from the public,’ RCIPS Chief Inspector Peter Kennett said, adding that anyone who sees Mr. Cornwall should not attempt to approach him but should report the sighting to the police immediately.
Releasing ‘wanted’ photos and descriptions of criminal suspects, particularly those that are considered an immediate threat to the community, is a long-established practice in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Both of those countries have television shows devoted entirely to the identifying, tracking and location of criminal suspects.
However, police in Cayman have been discouraged in the past from releasing photos of suspects at all, particularly those who have not been named in formal charges filed before the court.
The police release did not make clear whether Mr. Cornwall has been charged with any crimes.
Police Commissioner David Baines said it was his decision to release the photograph and information about Mr. Cornwall to the press and general public.
‘This man is wanted by police for serious offences,’ Mr. Baines said. ‘We carefully balanced the requirement to ensure public safety against the rights of the individual concerned.’
Mr. Baines said police also considered the effects releasing what is, in effect, a wanted poster could have on future court proceedings.
‘In this case, it is necessary that we trace this man and, in the interest of public safety, that we trace him quickly. We hope the public will assist us in apprehending him,’ he said.
Defence attorneys contacted by the Caymanian Compass about this issue said that it is important how such press releases are worded in that police do not want to be seen as convicting an individual by the language which they use.
Falsely accusing a person of a crime could leave the police service open to defamation claims.
There is some protection under Cayman’s criminal defamation statutes for items that are ‘a fair report of anything said, done or shown in a civil or criminal enquiry’. However, that protection is not absolute under the law.
The law does protect publication made in good faith if the ‘person publishing the matter is under some legal, moral or social duty to publish it’.