Chief Justice Anthony Smellie Q.C. called on Wednesday (16 January) for three more new courtrooms, in addition to the Scotiabank building, which Government spent almost $6.3 million acquiring, to provide more court space.
Mr. Smellie used the annual Grand Court opening to stress the urgency of his request.
He said it was the only way to deal with the largest ever backlog of cases carried over from last year.
He revealed there were 147 indictments carried over from 2018, which is 20 more than were carried over into 2018.
It was with those numbers in mind, that Mr. Smellie said the Judiciary faces an urgent need for more space.
He made his appeal during the formal opening of the 2019 Grand Court session, which was attended by H.E. the Governor, members of the Cabinet, as well as, a strong showing from the legal profession itself.
Acting Attorney General Reshma Sharma began by summarising the courts’ achievements over the past year.
She also pointed to the acquisition of the new court space in order to deal with “woes that have plagued the courts for years.”
Mr. Smellie said he welcomed the extra capacity as “an important first step towards the development of modern facilities, suitable to meet the needs of the courts into the foreseeable future.”
But he stressed, even with the new accommodations, the provisions were insufficient.
“We already urgently need at least three more,” he declared, adding: “to ensure that the summary courts, as well as the Grand Court, can continue to dispense justice in a timely manner.”
He insisted on the importance of making immediate use of the Scotiabank building, which they took possession of in December.
He laid out plans for how the facility will be used:
“The first order of business, therefore, will be the installation of a new modern courtroom. This courtroom will serve a dual purpose: first, the Court of Appeal when in criminal session…. its second purpose: a venue for the trial of serious criminal cases,” Mr. Smellie explained.
He said the building will house support staff, registrars, legal aid, conference rooms and mediation space.
With 147 indictments carried over from last year and 6 sessions for the Court of Appeal already scheduled, that building looks set for a busy year ahead.
In that opening session, there was no mention of the long-running hold-ups to the Legal Practitioners’ Bill.
But the Chief Justice did welcome the newly formed Cayman Islands Legal Practitioners’ Association to their first Grand Court opening.
He called the relationship between the two bodies that existed before a sometimes “fractious and counter-productive co-existence.”