At risk witnesses could be relocated to other islands
Wednesday, May 12, 2010 11:04 AM
Witness protection legislation is set to go before the House later this month.
Attorney General Kim Wilson said a new Act to enhance powers of protection for 'at-risk' witnesses in criminal trials was imminent.
The law will allow for witnesses deemed to be at extreme risk to be sent to other British overseas territories, like Cayman or British Virgin Islands, and to give evidence by video link.
Similar legislation, combined with a memorandum of understanding, is being pushed through in other Overseas Territories to provide the legislative framework for cooperation on witnesses.
It is understood that police already have the option of sending witnesses overseas, if it is deemed necessary.
But the new laws, which will deal with technical details like immigration permits, will make the process smoother for the countries involved.
Ms Wilson met with Attorney Generals from other Overseas Territories in BVI two weeks ago. Cayman and BVI have already brought through legislation and Montserrat and Anguilla are expected to follow suit in the near future.
Ms Wilson said yesterday that she plans to bring the Witness Protection Act before the House later this month. Amendments to the Evidence Act will also be required to allow witnesses to give court testimony via video link.
It is unlikely that the option of sending witnesses to other British dependencies will be widely used. It is viewed as an extreme measure that could only be deployed if the police, the attorney general and the DPP deem it necessary after a thorough risk assessment.
Ms Wilson said there were a number of less drastic measures that could be deployed to keep witnesses safe without shipping them overseas.
"The police are involved in assessing the risk. It may be security with respect to where they are living, moving them to another area of the island - the ultimate extreme would be moving them out of the jurisdiction."
It is unlikely that the Act would have made a difference in the murder of George Lynch outside the home of a Supreme Court witness last week.
Police revealed that they had not considered the witness, Philmore Phinn, to be in jeopardy.
"It could not have been foreseen that the risk was as high as it turned out to be," Commissioner Michael DeSilva told the press last week.
Ms Wilson would not comment on that murder, which is still under investigation.
But she said she was confident police had the power and the ability to keep witnesses safe.
"If there is evidence that witnesses need protection I'm confident we can do it," she added.