Crown prosecutors to review case after warrant tossed

A woman charged with misuse of information communications technology offences who had a search warrant against her home and vehicle tossed out earlier this month is still facing charges in the case.  

However, it’s not known yet whether the Cayman Islands government will continue with the prosecution. 

Sandra Catron said Tuesday that she was informed the Crown would be back in court to review the case against her. Searches conducted last year at her home and in her vehicle were deemed “unlawful” by a Grand Court judge. 

The preliminary inquiry in the case is set for 25 June.* 

Essentially, the warrant issued last year against Ms Catron’s home and vehicle was signed 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, reviewing warrant in a judicial review application earlier this month, 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.”  

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. 

 

Editor’s note: Date changed from the original story. 

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Ms Catron
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6 COMMENTS

  1. The big question which must be answered is,when civilians are involved in the administration of justice in these islands, how much legal training do they get?
    Is it two weeks of basic legal procedures on appointment?
    One week of basic legal training every three years?
    Is it one week every 5 years?
    Is it never?
    Is it that these J.P.s are solely dependent on the qualified lawyer acting as prosecutor and can only reason out the cases before them from a civilian’s point of view?
    When we look at the English Legal System on which our Legal System is based, we see that efforts are made for training the lay-magistrates even though they are instructed by a legal counsel while acting as judge in a Magistrate court. Even if they are not presiding over a case in court there are times when they must act judicially. One such occasion is when granting a warrant.Does the JP just depend on what the police officer say? Does he has an appreciation of what the law says about the particular crime? e.g. in a case of burglary (1) the accused goes into a house where (2 )he had no business,(3) take up something that don’t belong to him, 4 walked out just like that?. Or does he just rubber stamp what the police say? Some J.P.s that I see they don’t seems to have a clue about legal matters. So its no wonder that the one who issued the warrant in Miss Catron’s case did so ignorantly or negligently. What these JP s do in acting Judicial impinges on the liberty of the individual and nothing, up absolutely nothing should be left up to chances.

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  2. This case demonstrated the difference between the UK and the USA systems of law. In the USA all charges realting to the unlawful arrest, search and seizure would have automatically thrown out and the case would have been killed. However, under the UK system there’s the additional requirement that now Ms. Catron has to prove she would have been prejudiced by the evidence despite it being unlawful.

    So many people are unaware of this.

    I wish her the best of luck because the system clearly needs to change.

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  3. UncleDave – I would have thought the Commissioner would have been familiar with this long before now. He is a seasoned officer with some 30 years experience! Now making sure his officers understand the law and their legal liability are 2 completely different things. On that count I wish him luck!

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  4. What’s the precedent for damages in a case like this? Clearly after the Henderson case the police have learned absolutely NOTHING – seems a monetary lost does not impact their actions – since ultimately the people are paying for it I guess they don’t care!

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