Attorney describes legal aid bill as band-aid solution

| 05/10/2015 | 17 Comments
Cayman News Service

Attorney Peter Polack

(CNS): A local lawyer has described the new legal aid bill as an “attempt by the attorney general to put more band-aids on the legal aid system” that will only oppress those charged with crimes and undermine the ability of defence attorneys to fairly represent them. The new legal aid bill is being debated in the parliament next week but so far all of the formal organisations, associations and societies that represent lawyers here have remained silent about the law, which appears to be causing the lawyers who do legal aid work concern.

Peter Polack, however, has broken the silence and raised his concerns about the approach being taken and suggested the legal system is the actual cause of the mounting court costs and legal aid bills.

“This is a thinly veiled attempt to shore up a non-performing portfolio to hamstring defence lawyers and their attempts to exercise the full rights of an accused person under our system of justice,” Polack warned. “This poorly thought out idea followed other acts of genius which sought to destroy our legal system, such as the removal of preliminary inquiries or immediate transmission of certain cases to the Grand Court without the necessary provision of a proper court building and the resources to staff it.”

Concerns were raised in a report by a visiting lawyer from the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service about the myriad of problems in the local judicial system between the police and Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, which are leading to significant problems, including delays.

But questions have also been rasied recently over the decisions that are made about when to prosecute and when not to pursue an accused.

Pointing to the recent controversial decision of the director of public prosecutions not to charge UK national Sue Nicholson, the former manager of the Pines Retirement Home, after there appeared to be significant evidence that she stole some $300,000 from the charity, especially after her husband paid back the cash. The crown cited the issue of extradition, despite the fact that Nicholson is in the UK, and the age of the case as reasons for not seeking to have her returned to Cayman.

Yet many other very old cases are pursued vigorously by the crown. Just last week a man who was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and careless driving in 2004 was before a magistrate after he was arrested in connection with the 11-year-old case when he returned to Cayman. By contrast, because the ODPP made the decision not to charge Nicholson, if she returned to Cayman several years after the alleged crime, the authorities would not be able to arrest her.

Polack said that the constant poor decision-making by local prosecutors is creating an impression not just of incompetence but that there is one rule for some and another rule for others, creating significant inequities in the local justice system.

With so many issues surrounding the management of criminal cases, Polack warned that the legal aid bill, which is attempting to cap the amount of work lawyers can do when they are defending on the public dollar, has the very real possibility of leading to even more problems and genuine miscarriages of justice.

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Category: Courts, Crime

Comments (17)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    There are solutions, its just the elite lawyers in Cayman don’t won’t to accede to them.

  2. Clearasmud says:

    Unfortunately Mr. Pollack always has another view, but no one knows what that plan is as he only criticizes, but never offers an alternative solution. Mr. Pollack, I am asking you to remove the bandaid and offer a full, complete and permanent remedy so we can all see what it is that will work.

  3. Anonymous says:

    There is an easy source of funds to allow for necessary defence work, the attorneys raking in millions every year.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Ok, so can the AG alone implement the program? Doesn’t he need cabinet approval too? Just asking, really don’t know

    • Anonymous says:

      The AG is probably the most powerful person in our government, most secure tenure and although he advises Cabinet every four years they refuse to ask for their own legal independent advisor. I think he was actually with the PPM government when they drafted the constitution and the position of AG is most secure.

  5. Anonymous says:

    It’s very sad to say but probably 80% – 90% of born and bred Caymanians (3rd and 4th generations and beyond) are jealous of one another and always try to take down each other, which has been locally diagnosed as C.B.S. (Crab in the Barrel Syndrome) This is a terrible disease which has no cure, similar to AIDS.

    The only time I have seen this disease go into remission was in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan. Sadly, it returned about 12 months later like an aggressive stage four cancer that had spread to the lymph nodes.

    You know………. it’s a really sad day in the Cayman Islands when a born Jamaican (Peter) has to be so critical in the media of two other born Jamaicans; (Sam and Cheryl) who are all in the same respected profession. I have also witnessed C.B.S. happening amongst the latin american people residing here as well. I have never seen or heard of this amongst the Filipino population here in the islands. At least no yet.

    It appears that C.B.S. has become a contagious disease outside of the born Caymanian race, especially after living in the Cayman Islands for a number of years. I suppose it’s inevitable, as 99% of our older Caymanians can positively trace their roots back to places like St. Elizabeth and Westmoreland Jamaica.

    The pineapple on our Cayman crest……. is directly linked to Jamaica and so was the strong thatch rope that our forefathers made here in the islands, long before nylon came about. This was traded with Jamaica and placed on schooners that went back and forth between our islands.

    Peter, Sam and Cheryl are all very skilled attorneys in their own right. I have worked with all three of them for many years; with many favorable results in the interest of Justice. Those were really good days back in the 90’s and let’s no forget Justice Anthony Smellie in the 80’s – who was one of the most skilled crown counsels of the day. Hardly lost a criminal case in court that I can recall.

    Peter, Sam and Cheryl, can you all just come together and try to get along for the good of your adopted country and it’s people ?? Failure or refusal to do this, we all know what the end result will be and who will run things.

    If this happens, “Then Dag All Eat Owa Suppa Sa”

  6. The Country With No Plan.., says:

    The Attorney General commissioned the Yolanda Forde report in 2006 as a result of the increase in crime and the high rate of recidivism. The report was completed, the lady was paid, and the recommendations to implement certain programs and strategies were NEVER implemented. The AG himself admitted that “other pressing issues” caused the recommendations ( programs to decrease crime and hence legal aid) to NOT be implemented.

    So now, after NOT implementing the programs to reduce crime, the AG decides to cut the legal aid budget, which has increased as a result of an increase in crime. Is that not a circular argument?

    Seriously Caymanians, when are we going to demand that the Governnent remove employees who waste our money and are incompetent at the jobs? When?

  7. Anonymous says:

    This is poor. The credibility of the Police and justice system is at stake. The Police are having evidence storage containers broken into on their own property that is being guarded by a private security firm, the Security Centre along with a non reliable Cctv system island wide by the said company. With the kind of low quality police work that is being demonstrated you would only have to weaken the defense system to compensate for such poor quality cases by the crown. The answer is not in giving money to the Police to subcontract or use the Services constantly at times of the Security Centre but invest those millions into providing properly trained law enforcement and prosecutors along with funds and a clear checks and balance system of justice that does not enable poorly constructed cases to reach a trial and eleviate the presumption of innocence to make the three ring circus appear capable.

    • Anonymous says:

      again, the RCIPS is “Jamaicanised’…. why can’t we admit that the areas where we have the most issues have Jamaicans dominating i.e., schools, police, people committing crimes from school to adulthood (majority can trace a parent or grandparent/s who are Jamaican. The UK have so many criminals there they want to build a prison in Ja to send them back……. suggestion: maybe all those Jamaicans practising obeah against Caymanians need to repent because the good are having a hard time trying to uphold the others from that island nation. They flee their homeland but they need serious help

  8. Anonymous says:

    Isn’t the Solicitor General in charge of the Dpp?

    • Anonymous says:

      No one is in charge of the DPP, that post is an independent Constitutional post. The SG is the person responsible for civil litigation concerning government entities, nothing at all to do with criminal cases.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I don’t know what everyone is complaining about, we now have the exact judicial system that jolly old England has. Don’t believe me, check it out for yourself..

  10. Anonymous says:

    Introduce a public defender system funded by a levy on practising certificates.

    • Anonymous says:

      A hefty annual fee is already paid for Practising Certificates. It is a matter for the government whether they choose to allocate that for the purpose of legal aid. On another your note your suggestion implies that legal aid is a lawyers’ problem. It isn’t. It is society’s problem.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I agree with Mr. Polack. Its time to get a new Attorney General and hopefully this time someone who is knowledgeable of the system. The incumbent is mediocre at the very best and hence the lack of proper leadership and an overall modernization of a system that is definitely broken.

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