The efficiency of Cayman’s Judicial Administration and, more specifically, the Summary Court system remains unknown, according to an audit report.

Auditor General Sue Winspear said a lack of performance and financial information has made it “difficult to assess the overall efficiency and effectiveness of Summary Courts or Judicial Administration.”

Winspear, commenting on her office’s latest report, ‘Efficiency of Summary Courts’, said performance measures are not in place to manage or improve that court system.

“Judicial Administration has limited performance information and does not use the information available to understand, manage or improve its performance,” Winspear said.

In addition, Judicial Administration does not record its expenditure by type of court, despite the budget being set in this way, or calculate the cost per case.”

The 43-page report, which was made public last week, evaluated the efficiency of processing Summary Court cases. It also reviewed how Judicial Administration was performing, how it used resources, and its relationships with other justice partners and court users.

The auditor general registered concern over the plans for the redevelopment of the courthouse, as she said at this stage she could not assess the value for money of the proposed multi-million-dollar investment.

“It is important that the OBC [Outline Business Case] is in line with good practice to ensure that it provides a strong evidence base to justify the need for and investment in the new court building; this is not available currently,” the report said.

Winspear, commenting on the project, said the need for a new courthouse is not in question as the current court facilities are not fit for purpose.

“However, the Outline Business Case for the project is still in draft form and there are a number of significant gaps in the information presented. For example, there is no recent analysis of current and future workload that justifies the need for the number of court rooms being proposed,” Winspear said in her statement.

The report pointed out that no support was presented on why 10 court rooms were needed.
“This appears to be based on experience rather than an analysis of current and projected workload,” the report noted.

At the time of the audit, the report said, plans for the new court building were “well advanced” but there had been limited engagement with other justice organisations to identify their requirements for the building.

“These could include, for example, the need for specialist accommodation for vulnerable witnesses, or for secure accommodation for people attending court from prison. Judicial Administration needs to engage with both internal and external stakeholders to ensure that the new court buildings meet their requirements,” it said.

While the report found that local justice partners work well together at an operational level, it highlighted a need for more strategic collaboration to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the justice system as a whole.

“Individual organisations and managers understand their own responsibilities, and there is a Criminal Justice Board that operates as a court users’ group. However, there is no senior strategic board with shared responsibility for ensuring that the entire justice system operates efficiently and effectively,” the report said.

This, it said, results in a limited collective understanding and consideration of the criminal justice system as a whole and how changes implemented by one organisation can affect the workload of others, “which likely causes inefficiencies in the system”.

The report said the complex and multi-agency nature of the Summary Court system made it difficult to identify the total cost involved in prosecuting cases through those courts.

“Judicial Administration’s budget for 2018 was $15.2 million. Our analysis of the budget statements and estimates shows that $4.8 million of this budget was allocated to support court proceedings, including $1.99 million for Criminal and Traffic Courts and $1.96 million for Civil Court proceedings. However, Judicial Administration does not record its expenditures in this way,” the report said.

Judicial Administration is also in the process of upgrading its information technology system.

“The current upgrade of the IT systems has the potential to significantly improve the efficiency of Summary Courts by introducing online payments, e-ticketing and electronic court scheduling,” Winspear said.

Key recommendations:

Engage with all court users to ensure the design of the new court building takes into account the current and future needs of all stakeholders.

Ensure the Outline Business Case for the new court building is in line with good practice.
Establish a performance management framework for the criminal justice system.
Monitor and evaluate the use of out-of-court disposals.
Develop a risk register and change management plan for the implementation of AMANDA JEMS IT system.
Undertake financial analyses to identify current costs of different types of cases.
Read the full report: Court efficiency FINAL report