Grand Court Justice Charles Quin, in a ruling issued Jan. 5 but not released until last week, determined that the five-year delay in the Tichina Rickfield case was justified.
A jury last week found Ms. Rickfield, the former acting secretary of the Work Permit Board, not guilty on seven counts of making a document without authorization and an eighth count of misconduct in public office.
Ms. Rickfield has been on required leave – suspended with pay – since January 2010. Prosecutors originally charged her with 16 counts relating to intentionally changing Work Permit Board decisions. Of the original charges, a judge threw out half of them for lack of evidence and the jury found her not guilty on the remainder.
In his ruling, which was embargoed until the completion of the trial, Justice Quin ruled that the Crown did not abuse its power with the delays nor by not disclosing case material to Ms. Rickfield’s defense. The judge, however, acknowledged that the delay within the Immigration Department and the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service prior to the 2012 indictment of Ms. Rickfield gave him “cause for concern.” Following Ms. Rickfield’s formal arrest on May 29, 2012, the trial date was postponed five times, twice for the defense, once for the Crown, once from a joint application from both parties, and the final time due to a lack of court space.
The defense applied for a ruling of abuse of power, essentially that the delays put an undue burden on Ms. Rickfield. The application states: “Counsel submits that whilst a delay of five years in the matter coming to trial is of concern, it is the delay from May 2010 to March 2012 that causes most concern.” That’s the time spent by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service investigating the charges before formally arresting Ms. Rickfield.
Answering the accusations on the delays, the Crown states, “This was a complex investigation involving many documents and care had to be taken over the documents and audits. In addition, careful consideration had to be applied in relation to whether the defendant’s conduct amounted to a criminal offense, or whether this was a matter for internal discipline.”
Crown counsel, in its response, also said one of the investigators on the case became ill and it had to be transferred to another inspector.
Defense counsel also cited “the failure of the prosecuting authorities to provide important disclosure” in their application to throw out the case. The documents in question relate to Work Permit Board agendas to compare to other documents the Crown used in an attempt to prove its case.
Crown counsel told the judge that it had provided all of the necessary information to the defense in a timely manner, and the judge agreed.
Justice Quin writes: “It is regrettable that the Department of Immigration did not explain to the RCIPS that they were confused and uncertain as to what specific material was needed. The Department of Immigration should have reverted back to [the detective] to clarify that request – which early clarification might have avoided some significant delay.”