“There is no lack of commitment on the part of myself or the government to addressing the shortage of space in respect to courtrooms, but quite frankly the country can not afford at this stage $177 million new court facility,” said Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin.
The Premier made it clear for the first time that a new courthouse will not happen anytime soon.
He said the government in preparing a new budget found that it is simply too costly.
This comes as Chief Justice Anthony Smellie once again pleaded for a new courthouse, lamenting the poor conditions personnel and the public are forced to use.
He even pointed to visitor comments describing the current conditions as “shabby, cramped and wholly inadequate.”
Chief Justice Smellie pointed out that, “647 cases were brought over from last year due to space constraints.”
This, in turn, creates a backlog in cases.
The plea for a new court is not a new one and Premier McLaughlin said they have been trying to reach a compromise on the issue for the last 3 years.
“Trying to get to a place where we can start work on an affordable facility and we simply have failed to come to any reasonable agreement,” said Mr. McLaughlin.
He said suggestions were made about a new facility being built in phases on Linhurst Avenue, that idea was shut down.
Mr. McLaughlin said, “The Chief Justice now has indicated that they do not regard that as an appropriate location and in this case wanted us to appropriate another $4 million to purchase new property, the government does not agree.”
The Premier also added, “I do hope though that the course of the next few months that we can reach some agreement on the way forward.”
The Attorney General Samuel Bulgin also addressed the issue of a new courthouse in a letter to Finance Minister Hon. Roy McTaggart.
He said in that letter that the court administration can no longer assure the Cayman public of being able to meet its constitutional obligations for the delivery of timely justice under the current conditions.
It is not known at this time what Mr. McTaggart’s response to that letter was.