Reasons absent for some cases
The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service has issued a list revealing the nature of crimes involved in over four dozen Summary Court/criminal procedure code cases that were not prosecuted as a result of the statute of limitations expiring, as well as the reasons the cases did not make it to court on time. The list represents the time period between August 2005 and August 2010.
The statute of limitations is a legal guideline for Summary Court/criminal procedure cases that requires cases be brought to courts within six months from the time authorities become aware of the alleged offence. Typically, the Legal Department – via the Solicitor General’s Office – is responsible for all criminal procedure code cases, while the police prosecute traffic offences.
Produced in response to a Freedom of Information Request by the Caymanian Compass, the document shows that three cases of assault occasioning actual bodily harm did not proceed because in one of the cases the accused was not interviewed by the investigating officer, while the other one was statute barred because charges were laid late and the file had expired. No reason was stated in the crime report for why the third assault case was barred.
Seven cases of consumption of ganja were statute barred. Of those, one could not proceed because the Legal Department ruled, incorrectly, that the file was statute barred. Reasons for why four of the consumption of ganja cases were statute barred were “not sated in the crime report”. Reasons for the two other cases being statute barred were listed as “charges out of time” and “time limit expired”.
Of three cases of disorderly conduct that did not make it to court, one was statute barred because officers did not provide statements in timely fashion. Reasons for the others were not stated in the crime report.
Of four cases of suspicion of consumption of a controlled drug, one did not make it to court because an “officer failed to provide further statements.” Reasons for the other three not proceeding to court were not stated in the crime report.
Three cases of damage to property were listed. One did not make it to court because of the file being submitted late. In another of the cases, the accused was released under section 34 of the Criminal Procedure Code and in the other, charges were withdrawn at court due to six months having elapsed.
There was one case of rape in which the report states, “the charges ran out of time”, while a case of theft could not proceed because the offender left the jurisdiction. The report listed 15 cases of possession of items ranging from imitation firearms to cocaine with intent to supply that could not proceed as a result of the six-month limitation expiring.
Of these, reasons for six were not listed in the crime report and the others were as a result of officers not providing statements in a timely fashion or the time limit expiring.
Cases including charges of suffering a ferocious dog to be at large, obstructing police and threatening violence that were statute barred, had no reasons listed in the crime report for their being statute barred or the report simply stated, “time limit expired”.
Attorney Peter Polack, who made the initial Freedom of Information Request that revealed the amount of cases to not have made it to court as a result of being statute barred, said he was amazed at the reasoning for why some of the cases had not proceeded, as some of the offences did not fall under the category C in the First Schedule of the Criminal Procedure Code. He explained that A and B offences are exempt from the six-month limitation.
“The recent FOI reply to the Caymanian Compass poses more questions than it provides answers,” Mr. Polack said. “Ten of the offences are erroneously reported as statute barred, but are either A or B offences under the Criminal Procedure Code that have no limitation period.”
Mr. Polack said of even greater concern is that one offence did not proceed as a result of an incorrect ruling by the Legal Department. “The further question must then be asked as to how many other incorrect rulings of a similar nature exist and what steps have been taken to track and remedy these all to frequently occurring comedy of errors,” he said. In an FOI reply dated 2 August, 2010, it was confirmed that the Legal Department has no record keeping systems to provide details of case rulings. “This is preventing any historical enquiry or audit,” said Mr. Polack.
A later FOI reply of 10 December, 2010, confirmed that details would require a manual search and this would be an “unreasonable diversion of resources.” “This is a clear example of a government department operating without oversight or without the normal systems of record keeping,” said Mr. Polack.