Cayman Islands criminal suspects who have admitted to certain crimes may soon be allowed a “caution” under the law, rather than being charged and facing court for their alleged offense.
Police cautions have been used in the U.K. for decades and constitute a formal warning given to an adult offender who has already admitted to the crime of which they were accused.
Cayman Islands police have previously advocated for the same powers, but the proposed Cautions (Adults) Bill, 2017, represents the first time the measure is being brought to the Legislative Assembly. It is expected to be considered at the assembly’s next meeting, which begins on Feb. 22.
According to the text of the Cayman Islands bill: “Where a suspect has behaved in a manner that amounts to an offence and the suspect has admitted to so behaving, that suspect may be cautioned in accordance with this law, instead of being charged with, or prosecuted for, the offence …”
Under the proposed legislation, a caution is not considered a conviction, but it is placed on a person’s record and can be used against them in the event of a separate commission of crime.
The caution procedure is also not to be confused with a suspect’s right to be “interviewed under caution,” meaning advised of their constitutional rights prior to police interrogation.
A list of offenses considered “cautionable” under the bill include:
Theft/handling stolen goods – where the value of the goods stolen is no more than $5,000. Making off without payment is also a cautionable offense.
Criminal damage – where the value of the property damage does not exceed $3,000.
Assault causing actual bodily harm
Possession of a controlled drug that is not considered a “hard drug” under the Penal Code.
Causing fear or provocation of violence or intentionally causing harassment, alarm or distress by night.
The bill sets specific restrictions on an officer’s right to caution a suspect for an offense, including that there is “sufficient evidence” to show a realistic chance of conviction. The suspect also must “unequivocally” admit their guilt.
The “cautionable” offense must only be issued in cases where the maximum prison sentence is less than four years.
A suspect cannot be cautioned for an offense if they have been convicted in the past three years for a similar offense. Also, if the person is out on police bail, or serving a prison sentence, or had been released on parole they cannot be cautioned for an offense. Those individuals would have to be prosecuted.
The bill requires the commissioner to report to the Legislative Assembly each year, stating how many individuals have been cautioned and for which offenses.