At least 38 cases of possession of
an unlicensed firearm have been dismissed in the Cayman Islands Summary Court
and Grand Court between 2005 and May 2010.
More than 15 of those cases were
found to have insufficient evidence to be committed to the Grand Court, while
23 of the indictments that made it to the Grand Court were either abandoned for
lack of evidence and noncooperation of witnesses or the individuals were found
The statistics were obtained from
the Courts Office by attorney Peter Polack, who also submitted a Freedom of
Information request to the Legal Department. He received a response that
included only 22 cases.
The Legal Department’s stated
position regarding the disparity of these facts read, “The processes of the
Department of Legal Affairs do not allow for the tracking of outcomes of
criminal prosecutions undertaken by the Crown in the Summary Court.
“In order to require this
information, the records officer would have to manually search the file jackets
to determine the outcome of each case.”
Legal Department representatives
said they will be updating their computer system to be like the one at the
courts office, which has the software to keep records of the outcomes of
criminal cases in the Summary Court.
Mr. Polack said, “History is
replete with the Attorney General seeking to shore up his weak and unproductive
department by changing laws and rules in favour of the prosecution, such as
reversal of onus of proof in the Misuse of Drugs Law, as well as amendments
over the years on the manner and admission of evidence.”
The Attorney General’s office did
not respond to questions by press time.
Mr. Polack added that, “The firearms
case dismissals in the Summary Court speak volumes on misconceived prosecutions
stopped at the preliminary inquiry by experienced, intelligent and independent
The FOI request sent to the Legal
Department on 8 June, regarding how many cases were successfully prosecuted
from 2005 to May 2010, was responded to on 9 July, a day after the 30-day
deadline, and contained partial information that cited nine convictions for
The document went on to state that
the average age of the offenders in these cases was calculated by the Legal
Department to be 25.09.
The reason given for a partial
disclosure of information was that the information was not readily accessible
and would compromise the resources of the department.
Mr. Polack said that sometimes
there is a “we-need-to-get-this-one-or-that-one- off-the-street mentality, but
there is no cogent evidence, or mistakes are made in the collection of
evidence, and the matters are thrown out of court.” He said this only erodes
public confidence in the system and further empowers criminals, who only see
that “The case was beat”.
“There is a massive disconnect
between the police and the Legal Department, and the way forward cannot be in
reducing the rights of the accused, said Mr. Polack, adding that the government
had opened itself to unnecessary liability as a result of not having a peer
review process of the Legal Department.
The sentencing law for firearms
offences changed in 2005, with the introduction of new guidelines stipulating a
mandatory ten-year sentence in cases where convictions are recorded for
possession of an unlicensed firearm.
This law was amended
in 2008 to state: “The court of summary jurisdiction of the Grand Court before
which the individual pleads guilty or is convicted, shall-in a case where the
individual pleads guilty, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of at
least seven years (with or without a fine); or in any other case, impose a sentence
of imprisonment for a term of at least ten years (with or without a fine),
unless the relevant court is of the opinion that there are exceptional circumstances
relating to the offence or to the
offender, which justify its not doing so; and such exceptional circumstances
shall be cited by the relevant court.”