Changes to Cayman’s criminal
procedures – most of which were announced early this year – have been proposed
in a bill that the Legislative Assembly could consider in January.
The Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment)(No.
2) Bill, generally seeks to speed criminal cases through the court system by
eliminating some of the issues attorneys have claimed slow the criminal justice
One of the major changes would
allow an individual to be tried for murder at the same time they are tried for
other offences that may have been committed in connection with the killing.
Now, those offences must be tried separately.
A recent example of this is the
case of Larry Prinston Ricketts. Ricketts whose life sentence for murdering
Estella Scott-Roberts has been affirmed, must now stand trial separately for
allegedly abducting, raping, and robbing her as well.
Another step proposed in the
amendment bill is the elimination of long-form preliminary inquiries
altogether. Those inquiries are essentially mini-trials held in Summary Court
that decide whether there is enough evidence to send a case to the Grand Court.
Attorney General Sam Bulgin has
said he would 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
“There’s no point in having the
matter languish before the magistrate,” Mr. Bulgin said during a lengthy
interview in March.
That is now what the amendment to
the Criminal Procedure Code seeks to accomplish.
“Where a charge has been brought in
a Summary Court against a person in respect of a Category A offence, the court
shall transmit the matter forthwith to the Grand Court for hearing…” the
proposed bill reads.
During the earlier interview, the
attorney general said he was aware that many members of the public are calling
for stricter sentences for criminals. However, Mr. Bulgin said he is not sure
how much further sentencing options can go in the Cayman Islands.
The amendments to the Criminal
Procedure Code have changed the maximum sentences for certain Class C criminal
offences like threatening violence and assault causing actual bodily harm, but
change little else with regard to sentencing.
Current maximum prison sentences
for murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery, aggravated burglary,
and kidnapping are all life in prison. Judges have no other option but to give
a convicted murderer a life prison sentence in Cayman.
Firearms-related offences carry a
maximum 20-year sentence and a minimum 10-year sentence, unless there are extraordinary
circumstances determined by a judge – in which case a minimum sentence of seven
years can be applied.
There is also a maximum 20-year
sentence for anyone convicted of membership in a gang or who participates in
gang activities. However, that section of the Penal Code has never been used in
any Cayman Islands criminal case.