Although they may be obtained on a case-by-case basis, there is apparently no existing system for the retrieval of criminal search warrants issued by Cayman Islands justices of the peace, an open records request has revealed.
A member of the public sought in June to determine how many search warrants in the past three years had been signed by JPs. The request also asked how many warrants presented to JPs by police had been turned down between mid-2010 and June of this year.
It then sought to compare that to how many warrants had come before a judge of the law courts and how many of those had been approved or declined.
“The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service does not have a search warrant retrieval system whereby filed/pending files containing search warrants can be identified and retrieved separately,” according to a response by Chief Inspector Raymond Christian to the open records request. “However, if an internal enquiry is made of all police officers who obtained and executed searches going back three years, the information may not be accurate because not all police officers may remember how many search warrants they obtained and executed.”
The response also indicated that some officers may have left the police service over the course of those three years, which would make warrants they issued difficult, if not impossible, to track.
Mr. Christian explained how police officers handle JP warrants in his response to the Freedom of Information request.
“After warrants have been executed, they remain with the investigative files through the investigations, when the files are submitted to the director of public prosecutions by the RCIPS for a ruling. After the matters have been disposed of by the courts and the files returned to the RCIPS … the warrants still remain with the files up until when they are filed and disposed of pursuant to [Cayman Islands law].”
The police noted that, during the three-year period of the open records request, more than 8,500 reports of crime were made to the police service.
“In order for us to accurately answer your questions, we would have to physically search through about 8,567 files, which would unreasonably divert our resources,” Mr. Christian wrote. The individual who requested the information, local resident Sandra Catron, told the Caymanian Compass she would appeal the decision of the police service to deny the records’ release since it appeared to her that the information – in some form or other – was available.
“I find this to be an area of immense concern, given my recent ordeal with an unlawful search warrant,” Ms Catron said. “Frankly, to discover that no procedure exists to readily obtain this information is alarming.
“Given the possible human rights violations and legal implications of search warrants, a system should be implemented immediately to rectify this anomaly.”
Ms Catron’s case involves what a Grand Court justice ruled to be an “unlawful” search of her home and vehicle. The search occurred in July 2012 and was the subject of a judicial review application earlier this year before Justice Alex Henderson. A damages hearing in the case is scheduled for next week.
Last month, Ms Catron had been offered a $3,000 settlement over the search, but she turned it down saying she considered the amount “insulting”.
The warrant was issued against Ms 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 Henderson, who heard the case, 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.