Circumstances of each case not clear
Nearly four dozen Summary
Court/criminal procedure codes cases – including some alleged drug offences –
were not prosecuted between August 2005 and February 2010 because the statute
of limitations on those had expired.
The separate details of each case
were not specified in a Freedom of Information request seeking the release of
the records. Two of the cases involved traffic offences, while the rest were
criminal cases, the Caymanian Compass has learned.
The statute of limitations is a
legal guideline for Summary Court/criminal procedure cases which requires that
the cases be brought before the court within six months from the time
authorities become aware of the alleged offence.
The exact charge in each of the
cases that failed to make it to Summary Court was not specified.
It is unclear who is responsible
for the cases not being brought before the court. Typically, the Legal
Department – via the Solicitor General’s office – is responsible for all
criminal procedure code cases, while the police prosecute traffic offences.
Attorney Peter Polack made the
initial request for information to the Legal Department.
“The Legal Department pointed me in
the direction of the police, who have some systems in place for record keeping,
but ultimately the Legal Department is the body that has responsibility for
these offences,” Mr. Polack said. “Also, the fact that there have been no names
and corresponding charges published with the information is curious at best.”
Efforts to reach the Legal
Department for comment on the findings of Mr. Polack’s open records request
proved fruitless prior to the publication of this article on Friday.
“It is a particular brand of
incompetence that would see the prosecution of 45 offences irreversibly jeopardized
by mere effluxion of time. One can only hope that the person charged with
overseeing this bureaucratic debacle would resign and give some relief to the
people of the Cayman Islands,” said Mr. Polack.
“Perhaps what is of greater concern
is the deafening silence in the legislature on the matter of oversight and
audit of the Legal Department” he added. Mr. Polack noted that North Side MLA
Ezzard Miller has supported an audit of the Legal Department in the past.”
A statement from RCIPS spokesperson
Janet Dougall said: “There have been 45 cases statute-barred since 2005. A case
would be statute-barred if the investigating officer is unable to complete the
investigation within the stipulated period time-frame.
“There are many reasons why an
officer may be unable to complete the case within the permitted time, for
example, being unable to trace witnesses who have left the jurisdiction.”
Despite previous attempts to contact the Solicitor General’s office for response on this matter, the office only saw fit to issue the following statement after 6pm Friday evening in response to the Compass article:
“The article in the Caymanian Compass of Friday, 22nd October 2010 titled: “Dozens of crimes not prosecuted” is a clear misrepresentation of facts bringing the Cayman Islands system of justice into disrepute.
“The Government Legal Department has responsibility for the prosecution of all matters before the several courts of the Islands, including traffic prosecutions from 1st July 2010 at the request of the police. Given this responsibility, the Department gives opinions regularly with regard to the laying of possible charges.
“To move forward, the process requires a comprehensive criminal file to be submitted. From time to time, the Department has been compelled to advise the RCIPS that the matter cannot proceed because the time prescribed by law, within which charges can statutorily be laid, has elapsed.
“The term “statute barred” refers to not complying with a statutory requirement for bringing certain charges. Some offences, usually summary only charges, are required to be laid at Court within six months of a competent complainant receiving evidence of the offence.
“When a submitted file is statute barred, a public prosecutor would advise the investigator of this legal position. It would be irresponsible and contrary to the law not to.
“The Legal Department does not, however, have any control over when a file is submitted for review after a complaint has been made to the RCIPS or an investigation conducted.
“The time frame for completion of investigations is a matter for the police. We agree with the RCIPS spokesperson that there are many reasons which may be outside of the control of the Police as to why an Investigating Officer may be unable to complete an investigation before the time period has elapsed.
“Once a file is submitted to the Department, the date it is received and relevant particulars are recorded in the Legal Registry System. We obviously could not properly have a record of files which have not been submitted to us for review. It would, in the circumstances, be entirely appropriate for the RCIPS, which has a record of every single complaint (whether or not it has been submitted to the Legal Department), to respond to a request for information or for such records.
“The RCIPS spokesperson’s statement carried in the article clearly outlines the position with statute barred cases. We are understandably quite puzzled as to why the unfortunate misrepresentation of the Legal Department and the prosecution system persist in the article.”