Criminal justice report: What it really says

One of the greatest gifts parents can give their children is honest, pointed criticism.

Accordingly, the Cayman Islands should be thanking our Mother England for sending over adviser Claire Wetton to provide recommendations on how we can improve our country’s criminal justice system.

The report by Ms. Wetton, who is from the U.K. Crown Prosecution Service International Division, could be described as being — in terms of language, phrasing and tact — rather “British.” But just because the report is understated in tone, doesn’t mean that we should understate its importance.

Perhaps we can help translate:

For example, when Ms. Wetton writes, “There is much scope for sustainable reform of the Criminal Justice System,” what we should read is, “Cayman’s criminal justice system is in dire need of improvement.”

When the adviser writes, “there is scope to increase and improve coordinated working within the criminal justice system particularly between the [Royal Cayman Islands Police Service] and the Office of the [Director of Public Prosecutions],” what we should read is, “There is poor communication between police and prosecutors.”

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When the adviser writes, “The police and prosecution face a number of issues in relation to evidential file build and case management, with both agencies often working in silos. This impacts the court process and causes delay and adjournments,” what we should read is, “When police and prosecutors don’t work together, justice is delayed and/or denied.”

When she writes, “There remains a significant issue in relation to the quality of traffic files submitted to the ODPP,” what we should read is, “The paperwork on traffic offenses given by police to prosecutors is rubbish.”

When she writes, “In the year 2014, [2,759] matters including traffic were submitted for prosecution. Unfortunately, there is no facility to break the figures down further at the ODPP,” what we should read is, “Prosecutors couldn’t explain exactly what they’ve been doing in the past year.”

When she writes, “There is no structured performance data or advocacy monitoring. The quality of the files delivered to the ODPP is not monitored and feedback to the police is limited,” what we should read is, “Prosecutors and police aren’t being held accountable for their successes or failures — if those have even been identified at all.”

When she writes, “The courts appear content to adjourn cases for less than satisfactory reasons (e.g. Advocates saying they need to read their papers). There are far too many unnecessary adjournments,” what we should read is, “Judges: Get on with it already!”

There are instances in Ms. Wetton’s report, however, where no “interpreter” is required in order to perceive how serious the situation in our courts has become. In respect to failures in the prosecution of acts of domestic violence, Ms. Wetton’s words speak for themselves:

“The time taken to prosecute domestic violence cases, often means that by the time the case has reached the summary court, the victim wishes to retract and this generates adjournments ….”

Ms. Wetton’s advice appears to have resonated with our officials in criminal justice and law enforcement, notably Police Commissioner David Baines.

Speaking to a Compass reporter on Thursday, Mr. Baines said, “It is about time we put victims and witnesses at the heart of our criminal justice system. At the minute, those charged are at the heart of it, and there is not equal consideration or care for those who are supposed to be at the heart of it.”

He added, “Damn right, I welcome this report. I want us to prosecute serious criminal offenses and I want us to do it quickly.”

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  1. After carefully reading the editorial on this subject, and the comments by the Commissioner of Police, I say AMEN!! and would go on to say not because it is a lengthy report must we just scan through; read it carefully because there is lots to raise an eyebrow at.
    When the last card is pulled, the truth is, that when Police and prosecutors are not working on the same page, justice is delayed and/or denied.

  2. We in the public knew some of this for years but we always need someone to fly in and point out the shortfalls. This is sad as hell for 2015 and it’s the norm around here. We seem not to be able to think for ourselves. I wonder why? It must be the water.