Court boss tells PAC situation is ‘dire’

| 21/02/2018 | 21 Comments

(CNS): Court Administrator Suzanne Bothwell, appearing before the Public Accounts Committee Wednesday, told members that the situation at the court was dire. Called as a witness by the committee to talk about the qualifications for the audit of the judicial administration’s books, Bothwell was asked many questions about the management of the courts and the need for a new building. She said that there were a number of reasons why but “the need is dire”, as she warned that a functioning independent judicial arm of government is essential to democracy.

Bothwell said the current facilities had been deemed inadequate since the 1990’s, as she spelt out the catalog of challenges the courts are facing. Although they were managing to function and not yet “terribly compromised”, she said that if there was not some relief soon it then it would be at crisis point and the public would suffer.

Her comments follow Chief Justice Anthony Smellie’s continued calls for a new courthouse and his specific concerns during his address at the Grand Court official opening last month.

But regardless of the public dispute that emerged between the executive and the judicial arms of government, where the top judge took aim at the government followed by a rebuttal from the premier, Bothwell said that she had been assured that the executive was willing to come back to the table to iron out a solution.

She denied any claims that her department was seeking a $200 million facility and said that a project that would be under $100 million had been proposed. But the court boss did not hold back as she described the problems the courts face with the massive work load, not just for the criminal division but the financial and family divisions as well.

Bothwell explained that the security costs are a significant component of the increasing annual budget for judicial administration. She explained the difficulties of managing security at the courts, across two separate buildings, one of which was a commercial properly that was never designed as a court.

She refuted suggestions that there was one single issue that was contributing to the delays in the courts after PAC members queried whether the attorney general’s decision to abandon the long-form preliminary inquiry in Summary Court had led to a massive amount of unsubstantiated cases reaching the Grand Court.

She explained that the preliminary inquiry is only one part of the case process and the change in the system was by no means the only cause of the delays, as she explained how knock-on effects were coming from various directions. Bothwell told committee members there was not enough time for her to go into the “full gambit of issues” during the committee hearing on why new court facilities were needed.

“But I can say, since coming to the organisation, in my estimate, the need is dire,” she said but added she remained confident that the courts and government would find an appropriate system. However, she warned that the justice system was important to democracy and if it was not run well, it could undermine a democracy.

“We need a workable solution,” she said, adding that the courts would continue to engage in talks about what was now a well ventilated problem. Bothwell said the courts had received communication from government that it will be coming back to the table.

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Category: Courts, Government Finance, Government oversight, Politics

Comments (21)

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  1. Caymanapple says:

    The court house and police buildings should be joined together. Have you seen the court facilities in Bermuda? The Office of the DPP, the court and police are on the same building with holding cells in the court house. A state of the art facility with a sally port used by the prison staff to take in prisoners and also used by the police for detainees. Its safe and best practice. Why is the police station in GT, the cells in Fairbanks and the court and DPPs office at another side of town? We need to get it together. Don’t be too proud to not take good examples from our financial rival Bermuda. Ask Mr. Greaves and Magistrate Gunn, they have worked there and know whats good. that’s free advice you will get rather than pay EY millions to tell you what someone can for free. By the way, I just told you so there you go.

  2. Anonymous says:

    1) A decision and final plan needs to be made regarding the new court building, cost & location. Where ever the new GT central police station is supposedly going to be… the court building should be next to it.

    2) Until such decisions are made, the courts have to come up with different ways to accommodate the demand for services…. I agree in maybe starting court earlier and having have longer days. What about weekend court? The backlog continues to happen because court is only really in session for about 4-5 hours per day. Could the administrative part be housed in a close building, giving more court rooms to hold court??

    We need solution minded people thinking outside the box and how can we make do with what we have until we can get better options. Even if this Unity Government and the Chief Justice decide on a plan…. it will take years to build! What we gonna do until then?

    On a side note…. what is government doing with the vacant lot where the old tower building use to be? This was supposed to be a Christian heritage site…. but it has remained vacant from the time McKeeva was Premier. Why doesn’t the government try to use this site….. could generate revenue in being a paid parking area? Just some things to think about…

  3. PPm Distress Signal says:

    Government too busy carving out their own deals and building their own financial nest. Driven in now Black Range rovers . They simply don”t have time for this s#@! Yes Cayman Church and Penitentiary are the two main venues now for Caymanians. Big UP the Unity Gowerment after all you vote for them. Let the beatings Continue

  4. Diogenes says:

    Still don’t understand how they are getting away with building a glorified dock to benefit wealthy business owners and waterfront merchants when Cayman’s people would actually benefit from:

    Finishing projects that the PPM/CDP have already started
    Building new school facilities in WB, GT, and BT (along with updating and upgrading current facilities)
    Building a new Police HQ along with a new station in WB
    Building a new courthouse or expanding the facilities in some way to accommodate the needs of the judiciary
    Investing in local attractions and experiences to support our tourism sector ( even as every hurricane season risks it’s destruction)
    Investing in a proper transportation system to alleviate traffic and provide efficient alternatives for travel on island

    Any one of these areas should come long before we spend millions of dollars on a concrete slab in the ocean


  5. Anonymous says:

    Why is the court responsible for their own 100 million dollar project.!!!!

    I’m sure 25 million woukd give us a great facility. Summary court could just keep the existing facilities and a new grand court built.I

    • Anonymous says:

      wow…sounds like your have costed, engineered solution!…please submit your proposal to cig when you get a chance……zzzzzzzzzzz

    • whayasay says:

      The dire situation at the Current Court House is poor operational management. No one wants to be at work at 7am to start Court at 8am. Everyone rolls in at 9am and courts starts 10am til 1pm then takes lunch till 2:30pm until 4pm. only working 4-5 hours a day.
      Stop prosecuting people for very minor offences. Have traffic court 4- 7pm Susan and find solutions. The management of the court building should be a crime. maybe Judges chairs should be made of gold too.

  6. Count of Monte Crist-o-m-g says:

    100 million for a Court-House? The entire airport terminal renovation is costing between 55-60 million. Anyone know what the cost of renovating the former “Glass House” would be? Dare I say equal or less than that of Owen Roberts.

    (1)The structure, i.e. foundation & support beams, are still structurally sound, thus eliminating the need for a bare plot of property to be developed into a new structure (just like Owen Roberts), and will not inconvenience the ‘customers’ of the current court building during the construction (unlike Owen Roberts)

    (2) there is ample parking, something the current site lacks

    (3) located right next to the RCIPS, so they can shuttle the crooks/pedophiles/gangsters straight to the court room docks (kidding, but wishful thinking)

    (4) Having the courthouse next to the current Govt. Admin building can keep reminding the occupiers of that building that the Law is watching them….and waiting if necessary (again, kidding, but really wishful thinking)

    • Anonymous says:

      from someone in the know:
      glass house is not fit for court purposes. fact. retro fitting this would be more expensive than new build,

      • Anonymous says:

        I don’t think you are in the know. If the GOAB was built for under 100 million why can’t the Glass house be built for less. Tear off all the glass and just use the frame including the already built basement that could be used for holding cells. Use other material for walls and but use the existing foundation and frame. If necessary build a new frame around it. New HVAC systems completely, still I believe cheaper than completely new build. No new land cost close to Police Station can share existing parking. use the existing court for Financial Services Division.

  7. Anonymous says:

    It would be interesting to see how much of the courts time is ‘wasted’ on traffic offenses and
    collecting fines, and if this could be outsourced, or replaced with a statutory fee. I know it won’t fix a lot of things, but it has to be a drain on the limited resources. Usually big problems are best attacked by sorting out lots of small problems.

    Even $100mio is a lot of money, if we can get an airport built for around $60mio we must be able to get a court built for less than $100mio? Is the GOAB full? Can they give over a floor of the building to the courts and just refit it? What about the new commercial space being built in cricket square, long term lease?

  8. Anonymous says:

    What is dire is the DPP’s ability to clog the courts with loosing and botched evidence cases, and Cayman Court’s willingness to defer progression in cases up to 6 years. Maybe we need a new Attorney General?

  9. Anonymous says:

    Like a storeroom the more space the more junk accumulates to fill it. Bigger is not better. Get on with the job is what is needed.

    Case missmanagement results in repeated hearings over multiple years, the more court rooms means that they will be filled by layers dragging out cases, attorney general / prosecutors withholding giving evidence to defence, RCIPS witnesses not being “available” to give evidence and judges allowing cases to drag on for years and years.

    Case missmanagement also results in increased Legal Aid costs.

  10. Junior says:

    Same old, bury their heads in the sand, have you seen the prison too?
    Build a church or a school they say, to hell with everything else

  11. Anonymous says:

    What choice does Alden have after that shallackin he got from the Chief Justice – and rightfully so!

  12. Anonymous says:

    If she doesn’t want to go into the full gambit of issues, I don’t want to build a $100,000,000 court house.

    • Anonymous says:

      As in ‘PAC didn’t schedule a full day to talk this through since that wasn’t actually what was on their agenda that day, they just got off on an interesting tangent.’ (A useful digression I agree, but not the time before lunch to go into everything.) Remember, PAC was scheduled to be reviewing what was spent. Now if they want to schedule some time to review what needs to be spent that would be an interesting session. (Though I think it was called Finance Committee.)

  13. Anonymous says:

    As a practising attorney, I must say I enjoyed listening to court staff use the bathroom while I consulted the library today. I’m sure they enjoyed knowing I was listening to them too. Drip drip, plop plop. The sound of Cayman’s third branch of government. Smells so sweet.


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