A proposed change to Cayman Islands law soon expected to come before the
Legislative Assembly is aimed at speeding up cases where the crime of murder
has been alleged.
An amendment to the Criminal
Procedure Code, made public earlier this week, would allow the Cayman courts
system to try defendants suspected of murder in conjunction with other criminal
offences that are alleged to have occurred immediately before, during or
immediately after the commission of the killing.
Right now, murder cases must be
tried separately from other offences committed in the same incident of crime.
For instance, if an individual was charged in a store robbery where he or she
is accused of shooting and killing someone, the court would first have to hear
the murder case evidence and then have a separate trial for the robbery.
The amendment to the Criminal
Procedure Code would let the murder and robbery charges be heard at the same
Cayman Islands lawmakers will have to vote to approve the amendment before it can
The most recent example of this
situation in Cayman’s court system is the pending trial of Larry Prinston
Ricketts in connection with the abduction, rape and robbery of Cable and
Wireless Communications Manager Estella Scott-Roberts in October 2008.
Ricketts, along with co-defendant
Kirkland Henry, was sentenced earlier this year to life in prison for Mrs.
Scott-Roberts’ murder. However, since he pleaded not guilty to the other
charges of rape, abduction and robbery in the course of committing the murder,
a separate trial must now be held on those offences.
That case has been set for October.
However, it would be impossible for Ricketts – who has already been given a
life prison sentence without possibility of parole – to serve any more time in
prison for his crimes.
Henry, who previously pleaded
guilty to the rape, abduction and robbery of Mrs. Scott-Roberts, was given a
total sentence of 20 years in those crimes. He is appealing his life in prison
sentence for the murder.
changes to the murder trial proceedings are one of several methods being attempted
by the criminal justice system to speed cases through a backlogged court
General Sam Bulgin said earlier this year that his office is drafting
legislation that would allow police to caution individuals, rather than arrest
and charge them, for minor infractions such as disorderly conduct. Specific details
of that plan have not been released.
Another step being considered is to eliminate long-form
preliminary enquiries altogether, Mr. Bulgin said. Those enquiries are essentially
mini-trials held in Summary Court, which decide if there is enough evidence to
send a case to the Grand Court.
Mr. Bulgin said he’d like to get the system to a point
where a suspect charged with a “class A” offence (the most serious of criminal
offences) would have to make just one appearance in Summary Court before the case is moved to
the Grand Court.
“There’s no point in having the matter languish before the
magistrate,” Mr. Bulgin said.
Clerk of the Court Valdis Foldats
recently informed legislators that the court system and its judges and
magistrates are overworked and that judges often must handle a high volume of
complex civil cases as well as performing their criminal court duties.
Mr. Foldats stated that it was his
belief that the volume of cases handled by the court system simply couldn’t
increase any further because there wasn’t adequate space to handle all the
“Our pipeline is governed by the
number of court rooms we have and the judges to hear them,” Mr. Foldats said.
Plans to construct a separate court
house away from the downtown central business district of George Town were put
forth a few years ago, but government funding issues have shelved the project
at least for the near future, lawmakers have said.