Today’s Editorial for July 14: The rights of the accused

Two articles in yesterday’s
Caymanian Compass likely evoked frustration in many residents in the Cayman
Islands on to the issue of gun crime.

One story talked about the
difficulties the Legal Department has had in prosecuting gun crime, while
another story spoke about defence lawyers’ objections to a government plan to
abolish trials by jury for defendants accused of firearms-related offences.

Every law-abiding resident of the
Cayman Islands wants to see an end or at least a reduction in gun crime. The
fact that the government wants to address the issue is welcomed, but we have to
question the methodology.

We can only imagine the amendment
to the Criminal Procedure Code, which actually hasn’t been released to the
public yet, is being brought to try and increase the success rate of gun-crime
prosecutions. As detailed in one of yesterday’s articles, at least 38 cases of
an unlicensed firearm have been dismissed in the Cayman Islands Summary Court
or Grand Court in the past five years. Indeed, even when guns are found in residences
or vehicles, they don’t seem to be possessed by anyone.

We can’t blame the judiciary for
this; they are only doing their job. 
However, as local attorney Peter Polack pointed out, there seems to be a
“massive disconnect between the police and the Legal Department” when it comes
to gathering evidence and prosecuting cases and that the way forward “cannot be
in reducing the rights of the accused”.

We have to agree.

Gun possession is a serious offence
in the Cayman Islands and comes with a serious sentence for someone convicted
of the crime. To eliminate the choice of a trial by jury for someone accused of
a gun-related crime is not the way to deal with the inadequacies of the police
and Legal Department.  The proposal
suggests that juries can’t be trusted to do their job in Cayman’s system of
justice.

The way forward is through better
policing, better prosecuting and possibly some tweaking of the Penal Code.  Reducing the rights of the accused is a
slippery slope that is an indication of desperation, not of a democracy built
on the rule of law.

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