Summary court trials delayed nine months

At least three criminal cases before the Cayman Islands Summary Court Tuesday had trial dates set nine months away from their court appearance.

In each case, Magistrate Grace Donalds indicated to attorneys that it was the earliest date the court had available.

The specific cases involved Leskey Dixon, charged with “causing fear or provocation of violence.” Dixon pleaded not guilty and had his matter set for trial on March 25, 2015.

The second matter involved various charges against Mark Twain Turner. Turner is charged with acting as a security guard without a license during period between April 2011 and September 2013 at Reflections Liquor-4-Less and the North Coast Bar.

Turner is also charged with carrying on a security business, M-1 Security, without a license between April 2012 and September 2013.

In separate matters, he is also charged with damage to property and assault against Ricardo Fisher on Dec. 8, 2013. Turner pleaded not guilty to all the charges and was given separate trial dates of March 5 and March 12, 2015.

The third case involved Justin Devon Manderson, charged with possession of an offensive weapon and assault causing actual bodily harm.

The allegations against Manderson are that he assaulted a woman on Jan. 28, 2014 outside a home at 187 Watercourse Road. Manderson also pleaded not guilty and his case was set for trial on March 19, 2015.

The earliest of the trial dates set in the matters was more than eight months away from the time the three men appeared in court. The latest trial date setting, for Dixon, was a full nine months away from his appearance date.

The situation with trial delays in the Summary Court was highlighted during the opening of the Cayman Islands Grand Court when Chief Justice Anthony Smellie stated that trials dates in the Summary Court were being set for as late as August 2014, about seven months from the date of the Grand Court opening in late January.

Little more than a month later, in late February, the Summary Courts already had September and October booked with November rapidly filling up.

Now in June, trial cases are being set for March and April of 2015.

According to figures compiled earlier by the Cayman Compass, the Summary Court had more than 1,200 criminal cases carried forward from last year, and those matters were slowing up current cases.

Explanations from court officials have been that there simply aren’t enough judges or lawyers to hear all the cases, even if courtroom space and legal aid budgets were available to accommodate everyone.

There are typically eight to ten local attorneys that specialize in criminal defense work, many of them with clients who receive funding through the government’s legal aid budget, now standing at $2.5 million per year.

The director of public prosecutions office has eight crown counselors assigned to criminal matters, with one senior counsel assigned to Grand Court and one assigned to Summary Court, according to government budget records.