Cayman Islands court blocks copying of public records

Cayman Islands court blocks copying of public records

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By Caribbean News Now contributor

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands — In a significant departure from previous practice, the chief justice of the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands, Anthony Smellie, has approved an order prohibiting the public from making photocopies of court pleadings.

According to a notice posted on the door of the clerk’s office, the public can review the court files and take notes, but no method of copying or photographing will in future be permitted.

People can still access and take notes on court records after paying a $20 inspection fee. Obtaining photocopies – for an additional fee of $20 per document plus $0.50 per page – is allowed for “any legitimate purpose,” including investigative journalism, with prior approval from the clerk of court.

According to the court, publishing public court documents online could constitute a violation of copyright, an apparently questionable rationale given that the material in question comprises public documents in the first place.

The new policy has drawn some critical comment, not least of which was from David Marchant, the publisher of Miami-based financial newsletter OffshoreAlert.

In an email on Wednesday to 9,000 subscribers in 100 countries, Marchant wrote, “When a judge punishes such activity, instead of encouraging it, you know a jurisdiction has serious problems.”

Another financial professional in Miami wondered whether recent high-profile fraud cases originating in the Cayman Islands have directed more negative attention towards the offshore financial centre than the government desires, hence the effort to keep the original court documents, some of which could reveal a “head in the sand” approach by local regulators and law enforcement, off the Internet.

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