Bigamy charge sent to Grand Court

Court explores new procedure

Janet Ann Ebanks Sampson, 54,
appeared in Summary Court on Tuesday to face a new charge of bigamy, an offence
that can be tried only in the Grand Court.

After discussion with attorneys
present about a recent change in the law, Chief Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale
committed Sampson to stand trial in the Grand Court at its next session,
starting 6 April. A charge of false swearing was also sent up to the higher court.

Details of the bigamy charge are
that Sampson, who has a husband, on 6 September, 2008, in West Bay went through
a ceremony of marriage that was void by reason of its having taken place during
the life of her husband.

Crown Counsel Laura Manson explained
that the Legislative Assembly passed an amendment to the Criminal Procedure
Code affecting preliminary inquiries Caymanian Compass, 22 January). The
amendment was gazetted on 1 February. Unless stated otherwise, laws come into
effect on the date they are published in the Cayman Islands Gazette.

The law previously required the
magistrate to hold a preliminary inquiry into Category A or “Grand Court only”
matters, such as murder, rape or robbery, to determine whether there was
sufficient evidence to put the defendant on trial. The amended law now states
that the magistrate “shall transmit the matter forthwith to the Grand Court”.

Sampson was not represented by an
attorney. The magistrate asked if that mattered. She also wondered whether the
accused should be asked if she wished to make a statement, as is done after the
Crown has produced its evidence in a preliminary inquiry. The meaning of the
word “forthwith” was queried, as to whether it meant the same day that the
matter came to the Summary Court.

Defence Attorney Lloyd Samson, who
was present for other cases, said these were all good questions and showed a
need for practice directions. Ms Manson indicated that the Grand Court would
not immediately hold a trial but would examine preliminary issues.

In committing the defendant to
Grand Court, the magistrate said if any procedural mistake had been made, there
was time for the matter to be brought back.

The false swearing charge has to do
with an oath given in an affidavit in February 2008. Sampson allegedly
represented that she was living with her spouse and that they had not lived
apart immediately preceding his application for permanent residence.

This charge is known as a Category
B offence because it can be dealt with either in Summary Court or in Grand
Court. The magistrate sent this case to the Grand Court also because the new
law provides that Category B charges shall be sent to the higher court if they
appear to be related to the category A charge for which the person is being
committed.