(CMR) Chief Justice Margaret Ramsay-Hale has called on the Government to give consideration to a new courthouse in its budget, explaining that a more modern court building is needed in the Cayman Islands.
Speaking at the 2024 opening of the Grand Court on Wednesday, Justice Ramsay-Hale told Government officials, “We need a new courthouse.”
She said while she is grateful for the law court building on Cardinal Avenue, it is still not enough to meet the needs of the court.
She said the redesigning of the former bank building for a court has proven challenging because it was not initially designed to be a court.
Noting the difficulty of housing all staff members in the court building, Justice Ramsay-Hale said administrative staff could not be sent to the Government Administration Building as the judiciary has to be independent of the state.
“We are competing in the one building for adequate space for IT specialists, a finance team which numbers 10 or 12, HR, and courts,” she said.
Justice Margaret-Hale noted that the government's “ambitious capital projects plan did not include a single dollar for the modernization of the judiciary through the provision of a modern technologically enabled court.”
She pointed out that as a premier financial service jurisdiction, the Financial Services Division should at least have modern courts.
“We need to have proper courts, at least for the FSD,” she stated, admitting that this is not fair to the criminal court as a modern technologically-enabled court is also needed for the criminal division.
Justice Ramsay-Hale noted that it was a challenge, especially during trials in the criminal court, due to the lack of modern technology. She pointed out that jurors have to sit with large bundles in their laps during trials.
“We cannot introduce any more innovation, in terms of software and technology, because these courts are almost impossible to retrofit. Where would I put a monitor for these jurors,” she added.
She said she has looked at implementing some things in at the Cardinal Avenue location, but it has not been possible.
Ramsay-Hale noted the need for facilities such as “witness care rooms” where vulnerable witnesses are held until they are needed in court. Justice Ramsay-Hale said in order to have witness care rooms in the present building means displacing court reporters.
“We need to provide appropriate facilities for witnesses,” she reiterated.
She further noted that the juror room can only accommodate eight people at a round table, but a murder trial requires 12 jurors.
“This building is iconic; we love sitting here. We are currently working on plans to retrofit it and renovate it to the best we can so that we can preserve it. But I don't resile from a call for proper court premises so the court can do its job,” she stated.