Overcoming the challenges thrown up by the COVID-19 pandemic was a recurring theme at the ceremony this week marking the start of the new session of the Cayman Islands Grand Court.
Reflecting on the past year, representatives of the legal community pointed to the impact technology, in particular, has had in ensuring that judicial processes were not derailed.
Hon. Attorney General Samuel Bulgin QC called 2020 “a year in which every institution in these Islands was stress-tested by one issue or another...the courts being no exception.”
He described the court system as “the epitome of resilience”, saying that “it is quite clear that the pandemic did not slow down the work of the courts.”
“The Judiciary demonstrated great flexibility in adapting to the constraints of lockdown and social distancing by facilitating, among other things, the 4 electronic filing of documents and Zoom hearings.
"At all times, the courts remained functional, even with hearings where the Judge, parties and counsel in multiple locations,” the Attorney General reported.
Mr Bulgin reported that Cayman was able to meet its international obligations in spite of the challenging circumstances, especially fpr the financial services sector.
He said the jurisdiction “worked tirelessly” to implement recommendations the Caribbean and international Financial Action Task Force which monitor and supervise the global industry.
Another notable accomplishment was noted as the removal of the jurisdiction from the EU’s tax blacklist last October 2020.
The Attorney General said, “The financial services industry welcomed this as the EU’s recognition of the Islands’ reform to its statutory framework on collective investment funds.”
The establishment of the Cayman Islands Bureau of Financial Investigations and the passage of the long-pending Legal Services Act were also highlighted.
DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS
Director of Public Prosecutions Patrick Moran also noted how adapting to technology was key in managing their caseload and ensuring a seamless continuation of their processes.
“We had to change our working practices, with little (if any) time in which to do so,” he told the opening ceremony for the new Grand Court session.
“We have also adapted our working practices, again in close collaboration with the Court, to develop a system of electronic filing of case documents. This system was fully rolled out in the latter half of 2020."
DPP Moran credited the various divisions of the judicial system for rising to the challenges.
“The amount of work that went on ‘behind the scenes’ to deal with this new reality, was remarkable. It really cannot be understated.”
A series of public safety regulations had also come into force particularly during the lockdown phase.
"Within the first days of the lockdown, special sittings of the Summary and Grand Courts were convened to consider numerous bail applications, listed in light of the pandemic," the DPP recalled.
“The manner in which all stakeholders strived to preserve access to justice for all, in such unprecedented times, should not be forgotten.”
DPP Moran also pointed to the offshore financial sector and the importance of the jurisdiction keeping in line with international compliance.
"We fervently hope that these strenuous efforts to show the world that the Cayman Islands treats such offending seriously will be recognised in due course,” he declared.
He also reported that a dedicated team of financial crime counsel has appointed who are dealing "some of the most complex cases ever to be investigated in this jurisdiction.”
The ODPP is also assisting other overseas jurisdictions in their efforts to thwart international financial crime, noting that “our prosecutors are liaising directly with their counterparts from other jurisdictions like never before, Mr Noran reported”
CAYMAN ISLANDS LEGAL PRACTITIONERS ASSOCIATION (CILPA)
One of the most significant achievements in 2021, especially for Caymanian lawyers in private practice, was the passage of the Legal Services Bill in the latter part of the year, as noted by David Collins, president of the Cayman Islands Legal Practitioners Association.
“After more than 50 years without substantive legal services reform and many previous failed attempts, I am immensely proud of the work done by this CILPA Council to advance this legislation and contribute to this historic achievement for the profession,” he stated.
However, Mr Collins said it “achieves the much-needed regulatory reforms, ensures that Cayman Islands legal services remains accessible to our global clients, and creates a platform from which our profession can develop and flourish in areas such as legal education and the development and progression of Caymanian attorneys.”
Calling on all law firms to embrace the spirit of these regulations, the CILPA president said the association “envisions a future in which Caymanian attorneys have a more prominent role within law firms” and that they “envision that the development and progression of Caymanian attorneys will be central to the strategy of every law firm, resulting in a more sustainable legal sector.”
“To every law firm I say clearly – there are no more excuses,” Mr Collins stated.