The Chief Justice’s plea for more courtrooms to manage a growing number of criminal cases should serve as a “stark warning” that a new approach to Cayman’s social problems is needed, according to deputy opposition leader Al Suckoo.
Responding to Chief Justice Anthony Smellie’s annual address, Mr. Suckoo said the issues highlighted by the senior judge showed that government needed to do more to address the underlying causes of crime in the Cayman Islands.
Justice Smellie said the planned renovation of the Scotiabank building served as the solution to a lack of court space in Cayman. He highlighted a record 147 Grand Court indictments carried over from 2018. He said the 71 cases concluded is about on par for previous years and said new courtrooms were urgently needed.
Mr. Suckoo said it was time for government to address the social conditions contributing to such increases in criminality. He highlighted a private members’ motion he had brought calling for a study on the root causes of crime and the barriers faced by Caymanians in moving from one socioeconomic strata to the next.
He said the ultimate aim of the study would be the “creation of policies and initiatives” to address these issues.
“Far too many people are not earning enough to sustain themselves and their families, many are not sufficiently educated and trained to be able to secure adequate wages, and far too many are turning to criminality,” he said.
He said a new approach was called for.
“What is needed is a radical shift in thinking and in our approach. We can no longer simply react in an ad hoc fashion to every problem that is thrown at us.”
He said more courtrooms and a bigger prison were not the long-term solution, and urged government to do more to deal with the causes of crime.
Other social advocates have previously highlighted the number of reports that already exist but have not been implemented. Government’s former at-risk youth officer Michael Myles told the Cayman Compass in an interview last year that the solution had already been spelled out in multiple reports. But he said there had been little follow through from government.
He highlighted three reports, in particular – “Inquiry into the Causes of Social Breakdown and Violence Among Youth in the Cayman Islands (2001),” “Pre-disposing Factors of Criminality in the Cayman Islands (2006)” and the “IPAC Report: Review of the Assessment and Treatment of Criminal Offenders in the Cayman Islands” – as providing a clear blueprint to address the root causes of crime.
The key recommendations from those reports were consolidated by Mr. Myles in a 2015 memo, compiled at the behest of the National Security Council following two murders early that year.
Programs earmarked for implementation include a youth diversion and early intervention program for young people involved in petty crime, a community parenting program and a national youth database for sharing information on all at-risk youth with police, social services and education leaders.
Other needs include transitional housing for youth coming out of care, improved mental health services in schools and in the community, and halfway houses for adults leaving Northward Prison, he said.