Editorial for 20 June: JPs and justice: A system that warrants review

We’re glad to hear that Cayman Islands Deputy Governor Franz
Manderson’s office is now looking into the local justice of the peace system,
in light of what happened recently with another search warrant being declared
unlawful. This issue should have been addressed after the wrongful arrest five
years ago of Grand Court Justice Alexander Henderson following the issuance of
a warrant by another justice of the peace. The most recent case illustrates the
urgent need for changes in the way JPs are allowed to sign criminal warrants.

Without prejudging the innocence or guilt of Sandra Catron
in connection with her information and community technology abuse charge, it is
fair to state that what happened to her – as described, ironically, before Justice
Henderson in Grand Court in May – is unacceptable.

If, as the events were described in court, a justice of the
peace signs a search warrant without knowing precisely the details of a charge,
without a sworn statement of truth from a police officer and indeed, by his own
admission, not completely understanding the alleged offence itself, the system
cannot just accept the JP’s signature on a document that can then be used to
deprive a person of his or her right to privacy or even liberty.

In this case, we feel the police should not shoulder the
majority of the blame. Officers are using the system provided to them under the
law. It is the justice of the peace and the court system that must act as a
balancing instrument between the enforcement officer’s duty to solve crime and
the individual citizen’s right to privacy and liberty.

Without that all-important go-between operating in an
efficient and effective manner, the justice system itself can be contributing
to injustice.

 

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