Premier talks of new courts building in central George Town

Long-abandoned plans for a new criminal courthouse somewhere in central George Town may be revived under the Progressives-led government, Premier Alden McLaughlin said Wednesday.  

However, it was not clear where funds for what was certain to be a multi-million dollar construction effort would come from in an already packed capital projects plan over the next two government budget years.  

Mr. McLaughlin said the government had allocated $200,000 to “start the process” for building the new courthouse in its medium-term strategic policy statement.  

“[This] will include a detailed business case and subsequent procurement process in line with the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility,” Mr. McLaughlin said.  

A portion of the funds for the construction was expected to come through Cayman’s Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty Fund, the premier said.  

“Increasingly, citizens are waiting months and, in some instances, years for matters to be dealt with by the courts,” he said.  

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

Little more than a month later, in late February, the Summary Courts already had September and October booked with November rapidly filling up. In June, trial cases were 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 10 local attorneys that specialize in criminal defense work, many of them whose clients receive funding through the government’s legal aid budget, now standing at $2.5 million per year. 

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has eight crown counsels assigned to criminal matters, with one senior counsel assigned to Grand Court and one assigned to Summary Court, according to government budget records. 

Law-Courts-Building

The Cayman Islands Law Courts building was designed in the early 1970’s and has become overcrowded in recent years. – Photo: Chris Court

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