Road Rally: Revving up our justice system

In an ongoing effort to curb the motorbike menace, Royal Cayman Islands Police officers have seized 24 dirt bikes and motorcycles since December.

In that time, only five defendants have been charged with driving offenses connected with the crackdown. Another five confiscated bikes have been returned to their owners.

As for the bulk of the cases? Their status, at least to us and our readers, is unknown.

If the wheels of justice moved as fast as motorbikes, the cases would be zipping right along through our courts. Many of the vehicles in question were seized weeks or months ago, based on police officers’ observations they were unregistered or unlicensed, or were being operated recklessly on a public road.

These are cases based on “prima facie” evidence: The bikes are either illegal — or they aren’t; the operators were either caught “red-handed” breaking the law — or they weren’t.

The oft-recited explanation by authorities when faced with inquiries about crimes in Cayman is a pro-forma “no comment” because “the case is still under investigation.”

As far as we know, not a single case resulting from the crackdown has been carried through to conviction or exoneration before judge or jury. Why not?

If the cause is a lack of resources at the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (as we suspect it is), the DPP should sound a loud alarm for assistance. While we at the Compass are advocates for fiscal responsibility and restraint in opening the public purse, we of course recognize the need to adequately fund vital government functions, none being more important than law enforcement efforts, which include prosecutors and the judiciary.

But back to the dirt bikers. Readers will recall last December’s “ride of the century” — when drivers of more than 100 motorcycles, dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles caused chaos on the streets around Grand Cayman — speeding, weaving through traffic, popping wheelies and disobeying traffic laws.

The public outcry was loud enough that it got the attention of the governor, the police commissioner, elected politicians and, well, just about everyone else who was being “ambushed” on our streets daily by these marauders.

And yet, not a single case has come before a single judge, and now their motorbikes are being returned. We don’t get it. What we do get is we’re witnessing prima facie evidence that something is very amiss in our legal processes.

Cases can, and do, drag out for years after entering the courts. Consider the delinquent pensions case involving local business Champion House Ltd., which was first brought to court in 2008 — nine years ago. It was adjourned again in late June, and is set to be back before the court in August.

Or, consider the case of senior immigration officer Garfield “Gary” Wong, who has been charged with careless driving, leaving the scene of an accident and driving under the influence of alcohol for an incident that occurred in December 2013. Going on four years later, Mr. Wong’s case is still pending in traffic court. A fair question: Why should any traffic offense take years to progress through our court system?

Another one: What do our authorities plan to do to accelerate the pace of justice?

Read the full article from the Cayman Compass here.