UPDATE: Several well-placed sources have indicated court administrators have expressed a desire to seal court files relating to sexual assaults. This has prompted the court to issue an immediate stop notice on the media's ability to access all files as they attempt to figure out how to move forward.
CMR has now confirmed that the cease notice relates specifically to sexual assault and rape cases in which they alleged the victim's ID could potentially be compromised. There are a number of high-profile child assault cases that have recently been reported on including one involving an EMT.
Apparently, the matter has been under discussion with some court staff believing they can stop access to such files without a clear written policy in place.
CMR was aware that in that particular case the magistrate had ordered that the file be sealed for the remainder of the case. Selvin Caballero recently had a mention hearing that was also closed to the public. His wife waited patiently outside the courthouse as she erroneously informed CMR that it was his hearing being heard in Courtroom 2.
Ironically, none of this prevents reporting on the actual live court proceedings once the trial begins, albeit the magistrates/judges can issue specific reporting instructions.
Note: CMR would not intentionally divulge any details that jeopardize the identity of any sexual assault victim, particularly children.
(CMR) Twenty-four hours after CMR sent an email inquiring about obtaining the assault video footage from the courts in the McKeeva Bush conviction the courts have informed all media that the viewing of files has temporarily been stopped.
Bush is an MP for West Bay West and the speaker of the parliament and recently received a suspended jail sentence for what the court says was an unprovoked vicious attack on a bar manager.
On the advice of a lawyer, CMR was instructed that they could ask the court directly for access to the video footage. Uncertain if this is even allowed CMR inquired:
”Is video evidence used in court something that is subject to FOI? For example, in the McKeeva Bush case – can that be requested”.
No response to this email has been received as yet.
However, an email was received from the criminal registry supervisor indicated that “viewing of the course files by media is suspended from today.”
The Judicial Administration will now conduct a review of the process in light of the Data Protection Act 2017. Ironically, the DPA has been in force for almost 1.5 years now. The DPA was in force on September 30, 2019, and aims to mandate how personal data is used by organizations in keeping with best practices and data protection principals.
The email sent today had media scrambling to understand the context of the message and some already are seeking legal advice on how to possibly challenge any further restrictions on the viewing of criminal case files. The criminal registry already removes key pieces of information and documents from files including photos etc. before media can view the files in any event.
CMR cannot be certain that the above request and this decision are connected but it does appear to be a rather unusual coincidence.
The Cayman Islands follows very restrictive court proceedings rules including cases that are open to the public but access is not provided online. In many places like the United States, many court proceedings are televised in some format.
During COVID-19 restrictions media was given access via Zoom by request to some trials. Media has had to request access to files via an appointment system with access still limited for half days.
However the general public was instructed that they would have to go and sit down in Constitutional Hall and view the proceedings via a TV screen provided at the location.