Magistrate Angelyn Hernandez said Cayman is looking like a ‘banana republic’ because delays in analysing suspected illegal drugs at the Health Services Authority forensics lab is hampering the progress of cases involving defendants charged with drug offences.
One such defendant, Jahmar Shakur Watler, has been in custody since early May, but as of today, the court has still not received a drug certificate – which would officially confirm the kind of drugs in question – from the Cayman Islands Forensic Science Laboratory.
Watler’s lawyer, Prathna Bodden, told the Summary Court that the situation was “not ideal”.
“It is something that the Crown is very much aware of. There are a large number of cases. It’s the Crown’s issue,” she said.
Hernandez, however, went further, saying, “Not only is it not ideal, it is a legal situation. The fact of the matter is that we cannot have people being charged and you don’t have drug certificates… That is not ‘not ideal’, it is actually not acceptable.”
She added that she could not understand why only one person at the lab was carrying out the tests.
“It is not as if we don’t have a hundred other labs on island that could be seconded to do this job,” she said. “It is making us look like a banana republic and we are not, we really are not. This is not acceptable by any government agency.”
Watler faces several drug-related charges, including possession with intent to supply of ganja, cocaine, heroin, alprazolam (also known as Xanax) and psilocin (psychedelic mushrooms).
Bodden said this was the third time the defence had asked for a drugs certificate in this particular case and, at this stage, “there is still no end in sight”. She added that people cannot spend time in custody “due to a lack of resources”.
The court heard that other matters were also contributing to Watler remaining in custody, including issues with addresses that had been supplied to which he could be bailed.
Watler was remanded in custody until 26 May.