For many years, the Caymanian Compass has been trying to
determine the rules for court reporting with regard to what is a matter of
public record and what can be reported without running afoul of sub judice
Years ago we asked Cayman’s attorney general for guidance on
this, which he said he would be glad to give, but only if the media formed a
press association, something that has never happened.
Eventually, the solicitor general, a high ranking police
officer and a Grand Court justice addressed some of the media houses and gave
guidance on what could or couldn’t be reported with regard to those accused of
crimes. The police understood something from these directions that no one else
in the room did and promptly announced they would no longer release the names
of those they arrested until they appeared in court.
We then thought we had some clarification when one of our
staff members interviewed Chief Justice Anthony Smellie for Cayman Financial
He said all pleadings filed in Grand Court are available to
the public, including defence and counterclaim pleadings. However, we have since
tried to get copies of those types of pleadings only to be told by the Court
staff that they weren’t available to the public. Several email queries about
this to the Chief Justice’s office have gone unanswered.
Mr. Smellie also said sub judice only applied to trials by
jury because trained judges wouldn’t be influenced by something printed in the
media. Yet this newspaper remains barred from reporting or posting website
comments about active court cases, even when they’re trial by judge alone.
When we have, in the judiciary’s opinion, breached these
nebulous rules, we have been called into account and sternly warned. However,
when other media houses flaunt the exact same rules, nothing is done and they
continue to write with impunity.
We will endeavour to always play by the rules of law, but
find it astounding that those in charge of administering laws refuse to tell us
what they are exactly and hold different media houses to different standards.