Obtaining authorised access to confidential documents in offshore jurisdictions is, in some circles at least, the holy grail of information gathering. This is particularly so if the documentation has originated directly from the dusty shelves of the local court house, and relates to contentious matters whether past or present. The value of that information may well increase exponentially if it concerns, for example, high profile organisations or might otherwise be seen to greatly assist the pursuit of legal actions in other jurisdictions. It is not uncommon, then, for the content of court files in jurisdictions such as the Cayman Islands (“Cayman”) to be considered particularly alluring and the subject both of pre-emptive applications for sealing and subsequent applications – even by those unconnected with the litigation to which the file relates – for general access.
Whether or not members of the public, be they living locally or enquiring from abroad, should have rights of access to documentation filed with the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands (“Grand Court”) is an issue which requires close consideration. The careful balancing exercise required to be undertaken by the courts when determining issues of access was recently analysed in detail by the Honourable Chief Justice Anthony Smellie QC in the context of liquidation proceedings. As the Chief Justice noted in the judgment concerning In the matter of the Sphinx Group of Companies (In Official Liquidation) unreported, 30 January 2017 (“SPhinX”), determining whether documents kept on file by the Grand Court should be kept confidential requires a careful assessment of the particular circumstances in which access is sought, and the wider consequences of the publication of the information in question.
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Open Book or Locked Vault? Access to Court Documents in the Cayman Islands