‘Unlawful’ search warrant will cost Cayman

 

A police search warrant issued against a local woman last year was judged to be unlawful by a Cayman Islands Grand Court justice on Tuesday after Crown prosecutors said the matter should be dropped due to a “fatal defect”.  

Essentially, the warrant was issued against Sandra Catron’s home and vehicle by a justice of the peace, who neither recorded what police said to him during the warrant application process or obtained an oath of truthfulness prior to the warrant application from the officers. 

Justice Alex Henderson, hearing the case on Tuesday, said failing to record the statements of police was not a good practice and that applying for a warrant before a “judicial figure” without swearing an oath was a blatant violation of the Criminal Procedure Code.  

“It sounds to me like [the police officer] dropped in, chatted with [the justice of the peace] a few minutes and got him to sign the warrant,” Mr. Justice Henderson said during a judicial review hearing on the case.  

After consulting with Royal Cayman Islands Police Service Commissioner David Baines about the issue, Senior Crown Counsel Suzanne Bothwell stated that the oath-taking from the police officer was a “statutory precondition” under the criminal code.  

“That has not been satisfied … in this case,” Ms Bothwell said. “The warrant must be held to be invalid on this particular ground.”  

Justice Henderson scolded the Crown counsel during the Grand Court hearing, stating it was “blindingly obvious” that a warrant application given to a justice of the peace by a police officer must be done under oath.  

“That’s the rule in every western democracy,” Mr. Henderson said.  

The Grand Court judge also noted that there were other deficiencies in the warrant application process that would probably lead to a damages claim against the government by Ms Catron. Justice Henderson said he would like to the see the justice of the peace involved in this case, Louis M. Ebanks, absolved of any personal liability if that proved to be the case.  

“The justice of the peace must have a clear understanding of the elements of the offence,” Mr. Henderson said Tuesday. “He must ask himself whether each element of that offence is present. It is not enough that a police officer subjectively believes an offence has been committed.”  

Mr. Ebanks’ testimony in Grand Court last Friday indicated that he signed a search warrant that alleged Ms Catron had been involved in misuse of ICT network offences even though he did not appear to understand the offence described in the warrant.  

About a month after approving the search warrant, the justice of the peace signed a notarised affidavit in which he stated police officers seeking the warrant provided him with absolutely no evidence regarding the offence Ms Catron had allegedly committed.  

According to the affidavit from Mr. Ebanks: “… police never provide me with any evidence when having a warrant signed”.  

Ms Catron said she was weighing whether to file a lawsuit against the government over the warrant issue, but said she hoped the matter could be settled amicably out of court.  

Justice Henderson noted during the review of the search warrant process: “These failures were not deliberate. They were the result of, as Mr. Ebanks said, long-standing custom. Had the attorney general taken a real considered look the day after he received [the judicial review application on the search warrants], they probably would have given up at that stage.”  

After the court hearing, Ms Catron said she thought there were “other issues” raised by this police investigation that needed to be addressed by the criminal justice system. She pointed out that in 2009, a search and arrest warrant was issued against Justice Henderson in connection with the Operation Tempura investigation that raised many of the same issues. Mr. Henderson’s arrest was determined to be unlawful and he received a $1.275 million settlement from the Cayman Islands government.  

“No significant changes have been made since then,” she said. “These [search warrant applications] should go before the courts. The courts are there to put a buffer between the citizens of this country and the police.” 

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Ms. Catron, I empathize with you and I do hope you profusely seek what legal remedies you can acquire from the breach of your privacy. Sue if you can, because this nonsense that occurs has to stop.

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  2. I’m sure it was illegal to search her home without dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on the search warrant.

    I’m sure it was annoying, time consuming and embarrassing for her.

    But she was hardly beaten to death or locked up without food or water.

    Any damamges paid should therefore be resticted to the actual harm done plus an apology.

    By the way, was any evidence of wrong doing actually found?

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  3. Dear Long Term Resident,

    Justice Henderson was not beaten to death or locked up without food or water either and he got 1.275 Million – So I would expect similar compensation for Ms. Catron.

    If you read this story properly you would understand that this is way more than just dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s – but of course you didn’t.

    This ia horrible invasion! To have your personal home search, handcuffed etc. Now ever officer involved in the search can and should be sued accordingly for all of the civil wrongs against Ms. Catron!!

    The RCIPS need to stop this behavior.

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  4. Ms Catron said she was weighing whether to file a lawsuit against the government over the warrant issue, but said she hoped the matter could be settled amicably out of court.

    So the warrant WAS illegal…doesn’t matter on what grounds or cause.

    Well, I can guarantee Cayman’s attorney general and RCIPS one thing…they’ve messed with the WRONG person.

    Sandra is no uneducated, illiterate fool like the criminals they’re used to dealing with.

    She is the one person in Cayman they did not want to make this mistake with…

    And she WILL make them pay.

    I guarantee them that.

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  5. Had the attorney general taken a real considered look the day after he received the judicial review application on the search warrants, they probably would have given up at that stage.

    Longtermresident

    My assumption is that you are a responsible, intelligent and law-abiding citizen/resident of Cayman; am I correct ?

    As such, do you understand this statement made by Judge Henderson ?

    If you don’t, it means you don’t understand the laws of the country in which you are living and I consider that highly irresponsible of a person of your calibre and standing, based on your commentary on this forum; of course I don’t know you personally.

    If you are asking that people in your country (the Cayman Islands) refrain from committing criminal acts or that they be punished by the law when they do…

    What about the law being broken here by this constable of the RCIPS don’t you understand ?

    And that Ms. Catron has every right to whatever compensation that she is due by having the law that protects her rights being broken by this police.
    officer.

    Its obvious that you don’t understand the law that WAS broken in the first place, by your comments.

    You also don’t understand the bigger implications, as pointed out by Ms. Catron, to the court, to which Judge Henderson has agreed.

    If upstanding citizens like your self don’t understand the law, you are as much a danger and threat in your own country as those who willfully break it because…

    You will support the breaking of the law by the police, the very people who are sworn to uphold it….

    As you are now doing.

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