Bill reduces time police can hold suspects

A wholly revised Police Bill –
which governs the operation, powers and responsibilities of law enforcement in
the Cayman Islands – will reduce the total number of days from 12 to eight that
police officers can hold criminal suspects in lock-up without charging them, if
the bill is passed by the Legislative Assembly.

Lawmakers could take up the
proposal as early as next week.

The proposal also gives detained
suspects the right to contact a lawyer within 24 hours and family members
within 48 hours of their detainment. However, the police are not required to
inform detained suspects of that right at any point.

Currently, Royal Cayman Islands
Police may hold arrested suspects for up to 12 days, assuming the appropriate
police supervisors and the courts approve of the continuing detention.

Under the Police Bill (2010), an
officer who does not have sufficient grounds to charge a suspect he has
arrested, but believes detention is necessary to complete the investigation or
to question the suspect, can have the suspect held for a period “not exceeding
72 hours from the time of the arrest”.

An officer of chief inspector’s
rank or above can authorise the detention of that same suspect for another 24
hours without charge if that officer believes police have “reasonable grounds”
for doing so.

After the expiration of the 96
hours – four days – the bill would require police to go to a magistrate to
further detain the individual without criminal charges. Under the current
procedure, police only have to go to a court after the suspect has been
detained for nine days. 

“A person may not be kept in police
detention after the period referred to [96 hours]…except upon the order of a summary
court made on the application of a police officer,” the bill states.

Under the law, that application to
hold the suspect further without charge would have to be made in a closed court
session; in other words the public would not be able to observe the
proceedings. If the court is satisfied that detaining the suspect without
charge is necessary to question him or her, or to obtain further evidence, and
that the investigation is being conducted “diligently and expeditiously”, it
can order the person’s detention for another 72 hours.

In “exceptional circumstances”,
police can ask that the detained suspect be held without charge for a further
24 hours, essentially giving the Summary Court the option to authorise the
detainment of an arrested person for an additional four days without charge.

“If, at the end of the periods of
72 hours and 24 hours…the person is not charged, he shall be released without
further reference to the court,” the Police Bill (2010) states. “(He) may be
re-arrested for the offence for which he was previously arrested if new
information…has come to light since his release.”

The earlier release guidelines are
tempered by the fact that RCIPS officers can now electronically monitor
suspects who are released on police bail, even if they have not been charged
with any offence.

The Bail (Amendment) Law, 2010 –
approved by the Legislative Assembly earlier this year – allows those released
without charge on police bail to have an electronic monitoring device attached
to them if they are released under curfew conditions. A number of suspects have
been released under those circumstances since the electronic monitoring or ‘tagging’
system was implemented in January.

Arrest rights

The Police Bill (2010) also
contains specific guidelines for how an arrested person should be handled by
RCIPS officers.

Although police have said many
times that they inform an individual of the reasons for their arrest, the bill
spells out the requirement to do so “as soon as practicable”, except in cases
where someone attempts to escape.

Anyone arrested is entitled to have
a friend or relative notified of the arrest as soon as possible, except in
cases where the bill permits delay of that notification. Those circumstances
include detention for an indictable (major) offence, a firearms offence, or a
drugs offence.

In most cases, the delay in
contacting friends or relatives cannot last beyond 24 hours. However, a police
superintendent can give written authorisation to extend that delay “if in his
opinion, the circumstances of the case are exceptional and merit such further
delay”.

An arrested suspect must also be
allowed to contact an attorney within 24 hours – without exception – for legal
representation following arrest. However, the arrested suspect must make a request
to do so and does not have to be informed of this right by police officers.

UK model followed

The Police Bill (2010) as written
does not introduce an American-style “right to remain silent” for criminal
suspects who are arrested, but rather uses the UK model, which allows judges
and juries to draw what are called “adverse inferences” from a person’s refusal
to speak or omission of evidence to police.

The bill states that in “any
proceedings” where a suspect fails to mention any fact to a police officer
during questioning that is then relied upon in his defence to a court or jury
may “draw such inferences from the failure as appear proper”. The same rule
applies to the suspect when they are charged with an offence or officially informed
that they “might be prosecuted for it”.

Negative inferences cannot be drawn
in such a case where the suspect is not allowed to contact an attorney before
being questioned or charged.

At trial, the bill allows judges
and juries to draw “such inferences as appear proper from the failure of the
accused to give evidence or his refusal, without good cause, to answer any
question”.

The bill would not outright force
criminal suspects to testify in their own defence. They cannot be held in
contempt of court for refusing to answer questions in their own defence.

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