According to the headlines and the statistics, serious crime is on the increase. Eight murders in 2009 (at the time of writing) is a shockingly high ratio per capita in this tiny jurisdiction. Cayman has always lauded its safety and security to the world as vital draws for business, so getting on top of the crime wave is essential if business is to continue, especially since the recessionary grip has also taken its hold on Cayman’s business fraternity. Yet recent well-documented investigations among the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service have done little to increase public confidence that this will happen. Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull has an exclusive interview with Police Commissioner David Baines and appreciates that an entire change of mind set is needed if Cayman is to properly embrace the tough demands of 21st Century society. Second in a three part series of articles.
Upgrading in tandem
The RCIPS should not take sole blame for the inadequate justice system operating in Cayman, says the Commissioner. Baines says that the judiciary and courts systems are also in need of a serious overhaul. The length of time that cases take to proceed creates problems all round – there is no closure for the victims who are unable to move on with their lives, those who are eventually found not guilty have had to endure months or even years of uncertainty and in some cases individuals have had their cases overturned for no other reason than the court process has taken too long, effectively permitting the guilty to walk free.
“There is no point in the RCIPS presenting a well supported case with taped evidence to the courts if the processing of the cases is going to take two years and the courts are only then going to require transcribed evidence instead of taped!” he states.
Baines believes another change in culture will be required for the legal and judiciary systems to tear themselves away from their 20th Century positions.
“Employing a tape transcriber to listen to the evidence tapes (which can sometimes run to up to 36 hours) and produce a summary of the salient points for the court would be a good starting point,” he states. “Furthermore I believe that it ought to be mandatory for the interviews of suspects for serious crimes to be taped, either by audio or DVD.”
In the UK the Simple Speedy Summary Justice was implemented in 2007 and introduced a new way of working to encompass a simpler set of processes and procedures. The resounding success of the pilot scheme has meant CJSSS has now been implemented in 360 magistrates’ courts in England and Wales.
Baines explains: “The CJSSS aims to improve the way cases are managed and dealt with, focusing on the methods that make the justice system work well.”
In the UK the average court case in lower level courts takes 10 days from the arrest of the individual to their conviction or release. Such offences covered in the lower courts include theft, burglary, assault and simple drug possession.
“Again, I don’t believe that implementing such a system would be hugely costly to the Cayman Islands financially, but there needs to be a will here to want to change the system,” Baines confirms. He adds that the implementation of the Constitution will put added pressures on the justice system to speed up the process and bring it in line with other first world countries.
All working together
Baines spoke at a recent Chamber of Commerce luncheon about the need for various agencies (schools, paediatricians, social services etc) to work together to ensure that problem families were properly cared for among all agencies. He said that he had spoken with a local paediatrician who had said they could pinpoint almost precisely at what age a particular child from a problem family would enter the world of crime and that nipping that in the bud ought to be a priority of all those dealing with youngsters.
As an aid to this convergence, Baines speaks about the UK Act called Section 17 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, which was introduced in 1998 which makes it a legal responsibility for professionals working in schools, social services and family units to report criminal acts of which they become aware.
“In addition to their duty and care they also now have a legal responsibility to report crime,” Baines says.
“This has not been a block to communication among such agencies, rather it has become an enabler and has improved connectivity,” he says. “For example, if there is an increased risk of public order, perhaps a group of gangs are preparing to fight outside a school, then the police will already be aware of the situation and may well be able to diffuse an event before it even begins, simply by placing an officer at the school gates.”
Next month hear the Commissioner’s views on gun crime, the marine unit and cost cutting.