No Juveniles Law challenges expected

Court case validation a ‘technical’ issue

Cayman Islands court administrators said this week that legal difficulties requiring Legislative Assembly members to ‘validate’ 16 years worth of juvenile civil court matters were technical in nature and should not lead to any significant number of challenges. 

The issue, which was addressed when lawmakers passed the Juveniles Law [Validation] Bill, 2013, appeared to be that court officials – including judges – had been using civil jurisdiction under the Juveniles Law (1990) when it was no longer legally valid.  

The Caymanian Compass has since learned that the issue was recognised by Chief Justice Anthony Smellie in a ruling on a 2012 family court case.  

The case involved the custody rights of a six-year-old boy and whether the child’s mother was a suitable guardian. At the request of the court, the identities of the individuals involved in the case are being kept confidential by the newspaper.  

Mr. Smellie noted that prior to deciding the case before him, he had to resolve the issue that was created by the by the repeal of a section of the Juveniles Law by the Youth Justice Law.  

“Orders such as the present [case]…are of doubtful validity because the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court had been repealed by the repeal of part II [of the Juveniles Law],” the chief justice’s ruling read. “The Youth Justice Law does not substitute any provision for the repeal of part II of the Juvenile Law.”  

The ruling was brought to the attention of lawmakers in January during a presentation by Attorney General Sam Bulgin. Immediately after the presentation, lawmakers considered the Juveniles Law [Validation] Bill, 2013.  

Community Affairs Minister Dwayne Seymour told the legislature during his discussion on the law: “[The bill seeks to] validate all acts carried out in good faith by judges, magistrates and other authorised persons in the purported exercise of the civil jurisdiction under the Juveniles Law, 1990, between the 12th of March, 1996 and the 30th of June, 2012 and to indemnify the judges, magistrates and other authorised persons in respect of those acts carried out during that time.”  

The Youth Justice Law took effect in March 1996 and effectively repealed provisions relating to the juvenile court and the civil jurisdiction for matters related to children in the old Juveniles Law (1990).  

“The Children’s Law (1995), which contained the provisions necessary for establishing the civil jurisdiction for matters relating to children, never entered into force,” Mr. Seymour said. It was not immediately clear why the law was not put in place.  

“Judges, magistrates and other authorized persons continued to act pursuant to the repealed sections of the Juvenile’s Law (1990). The actions carried out in good faith…are in need of validation,” Mr. Seymour said, adding that those included decisions by a juveniles court, actions of any judge, magistrate, justice of the peace, clerk or any other authorized person who acted in jurisdiction of Juvenile’s Law (1990).  

The indemnification clause in the Juveniles Law [Validation] Bill, 2012, also indemnifies judges, magistrates and other court officers against “any claims, damages or legal proceedings” brought in relation to the use of authority under the Juveniles Law (1990) between 12 March, 1996 and 30 June, 2012. This would protect those individuals from being held liable in their personal capacity for any decisions they made under the non-valid Juveniles Law (1990).