Government takes steps to new courthouse

Proposals for business case invited

When the courthouse in central George Town was designed in the mid-1970s, some planners thought the two courtrooms were “too generous,” according to court administrator Kevin McCormac. 

The Cayman Islands Judicial System now runs 10 courtrooms a day on average and has outgrown the building it has called home since it was completed decades ago, Mr. McCormac said. 

The Ministry of Planning this week issued a request for proposals for consultants to begin planning for a new court facility. The RFP asks companies to bid on the outline business case for a new building to replace the aging courthouse. 

“We are in a building that is way out of date,” Mr. McCormac said. 

The tender for the outline business case is one of the first steps in the process that could potentially take several years before government breaks ground on a new court facility. 

Mr. McCormac said he hopes to have more courtrooms to hear more cases simultaneously and speed up the process for criminal defendants and civil lawsuits to work through the judicial system. He said there are several other factors, including moving tribunals to the judicial building. “Policy decisions need to be made,” he said, before a new court building can become a reality. 

“We would want to see quite a significant increase” in the number of courtrooms available, he said. 

Mr. McCormac pointed to issues with the building beyond just the number of courtrooms. “The provision for jurors is poorer that we [hoped] it would be,” he said.  

He also noted that the court lacks facilities to keep witnesses and victims separated during a trial. 

Complaints about the facilities for witnesses came up in a recent report from a criminal justice adviser seconded to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions from the United Kingdom. Claire Wetton, who spent four months with the DPP earlier this year, wrote: “There is little by way of witness care at the court and the police do not have a witness care unit. This was particularly apparent at court, as there is no separate waiting area for victims and witnesses and they often sit in the same waiting area as the defendant and his/her supporters outside of the courtroom.” 

Ms. Wetton recommended a short-term solution to put vulnerable witnesses in an interview room as a waiting area, but she wrote that a long-term plan should give witnesses a dedicated waiting area, away from defendants. 

Cayman’s courthouse in George Town was built in 1977.