UK Advisor's Report Out
The Governor's Office has published the report of Criminal Justice Advisor (CJA), Claire Wetton, who was seconded from the UK Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to the Cayman Islands for three months between January and April 2015.
The aim of the deployment was to identify and deliver sustainable solutions and improvements leading to a more efficient and effective criminal justice system. This involved working with the RCIPS, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) and the Courts to improve existing systems and develop new processes.
Her Excellency the Governor said: "I welcome this report and was very pleased to support the project which I believe will help reduce criminality in the Cayman Islands through a more efficient criminal justice system. The report describes the practical changes which have been made and recommends further areas for work. The deployment is an excellent example of cross government working and professionalism between the RCIPS, the Office of the DPP and the Courts who embraced the aims and objectives of this project. I particularly look forward to seeing the positive effects of the Practice Direction come into play."
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Ms Cheryl Richards said: "We welcome this report, and are grateful for the assistance provided by the CJA during her time in Cayman and the establishment of procedures in the Summary Court. We have already begun to work with colleagues in the RCIPS, the Courts and the Ministry of Home Affairs to consider the recommendations and explore how best they can be progressed. We particularly welcome the Practice Direction, which has potential for the most far reaching change in the justice system."
The report can be accessed at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/report-of-criminal-justice-advisor-to-the-cayman-islands.
The Practice Direction (05/2015) can be accessed at: https://www.judicial.ky/courts/practice-directions-judicial-admin.
Official responses to the summary of recommendations for future intervention
- Implementation of new structure for the Criminal Justice Board.
- Full implementation of the Manual of Guidance including monitoring and training for the police.
- Implementation of an electronic case management system to enable more reliable collection of performance data, the ODPP would benefit from a digital case management system that could interface with the police and the court.
- Development of sentencing guidelines to ensure consistency and transparency.
- Implementation of the Criminal Procedure Practice Direction and case management forms to streamline and expedite the prosecution process, identifying issues for the court to decide.
- Development of a diversion policy/ restorative justice options or other out of court disposals such as cautioning for offences that would receive a nominal or financial penalty.
- Review the witness summons system to consider warning officers by email; this may require a legislative change.
- Establish a witness care unit which could be staffed by volunteers and ensure that separate waiting areas are available in those cases where the witnesses are vulnerable and require additional support. Consider using the video link facility at the Family Support Unit for witnesses to give evidence in court (in particular child witnesses) to provide a familiar and safe environment to ensure best evidence is obtained.
- Amend the traffic ticket process (as implemented in Turks and Caicos).
- Implement a handover system at the police station to ensure that the investigation continues when the officer in the case is not present.
- At least two Crown Counsel assigned solely to the summary court. (Pending this taking place the CJA recommends that each Crown Counsel remain in the summary court/grand court for a minimum of six months, to enable cases to conclude and minimise duplication of work).
- At least two Crown Counsel specialise in each subject area to ensure adequate specialism's and succession planning.
The ODPP has had such a policy in place for several years now with Counsel being rotated between specialist areas from the start of each year in order for Counsel to be well rounded, as well as to ensure succession planning. However in areas in which there is lesser volume and in which less specialist knowledge is required, only one Crown Counsel is assigned.
- Crown Counsel to draft charges and a database of charges to be compiled that can be copied and pasted to reduce the number of charges which are incorrectly drafted at Court. Once the file is received after the charge, the charge sheet should be checked and certified by counsel who provided the ruling.
The CJA facilitated the implementation of the new Criminal Justice Board (CJB) during her placement. The CJB has met twice since that time and is scheduled to have quarterly meetings going forward. The CJB provides a good format for court users to exchange views and explore new ideas to improve the court experience for all.
The opening of the new RCIPS custody suites will progress the implementation of this recommendation as there will be a new file management team providing better standards on timing and a single point of contact, thus improving file quality.
Presently the Court system, JEMS, is used to interface with the Police and the Court. This system can also be used to generate statistical data regarding the output of each Court on a monthly or quarterly basis and has been used by the Office of the DPP to determine the disposal rate of cases in the Summary Court.
Justice Quin is currently chairing a group which is working on sentencing guidelines. A draft of guidelines relating to general sentencing principles and providing specific guidelines on robbery and burglary sentencing is under review and is expected to be published later this year.
The Practice Direction is expected to make a significant impact on improving court processes and has been published by the Chief Justice, with a commencement date of 1 September.
This recommendation is supported by the Ministry of Home affairs (MHA) and will require legislative change. MHA is currently exploring such out of court options with a view to making a recommendation to Cabinet on the implementation of a cautioning system including recommendations on a comprehensive diversion policy. In addition, the enactment of the Alternative Sentencing Law will also support this initiative. Restorative Justice initiatives have proven successful in many jurisdictions and MHA will also support a wider multi-disciplinary working group to design a pilot programme and implement & monitor the same.
The Attorney General's office is currently reviewing whether this recommendation will require a change to the Criminal Procedure Code, and how best we can take this forward.
The RCIPS Family Support Unit currently utilise the video link facility as the default method for hearing evidence from child and other vulnerable witnesses. There is limited space available in the Court to ensure witnesses are separated from defendants, although every effort is made to separate vulnerable witnesses from defendants. It is hoped that the planned new court building will provide a facility to satisfy this recommendation fully.
The Police Commissioner has undertaken to discuss this recommendation with his colleagues in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The RCIPS will take forward this recommendation.
This recommendation has been discussed by the ODPP prior to the arrival of the CJA. Currently, staff employed by the ODPP are employed on the basis that they will appear in both Courts and they therefore have a legitimate expectation that they will undertake Grand Court work. However this recommendation is now in effect for new staff and a new Crown Counsel appointed in August has been assigned primarily to the Summary Court.
A database of draft charges was created specifically for the RCIPS by the ODPP in 2013. The use of the database has been varied and changes are required to ensure its efficient use. The recommendation to copy and paste charges will be taken forward and the recommendation for Counsel to check charges has always been in effect.