Yet another pledge has been made to introduce witness protection legislation in the months ahead.
The assurance was given during the Speech From the Throne two weeks ago, which served to outline the government’s ambitious legislative agenda.
According to the government, Witness Anonymity legislation will be brought forward to ensure the protection of witnesses and the preservation of their rights by making provisions for a court to make a witness anonymity order.
The new law will be introduced to protect the safety of witnesses, prevent damage to property, and prevent real harm to the public interest.
The proposed legislation was described as an invaluable tool in assisting with combating serious crime and the government said the new legislation is expected to help bolster public confidence in the criminal justice system at the same time.
Public confidence in law enforcement has been an issue of concern for some time, with previous Police Commissioner Michael Matthews disclosing recently that he was shocked to learn that there was mistrust even amongst ranks of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF).
Just last year, a witness in a murder case had to be placed in protective custody after the court learned of new, ‘concerning’ developments. The judge in that matter denied bail to the accused after deciding that his troubling, violent record was enough to pose very real concerns of him interfering with the administration of justice if he was released.
Witness anonymity legislation has been on the Virgin Islands Government’s agenda since 2018, at least; during the time of the NDP administration. The previous VIP administration led by former Premier Andrew Fahie had also announced its intention of introducing the same legislation back in 2020, but it is unclear why this was not done at that time.
The government announced during the Speech from the Throne, that the Fifth Session of the House of Assembly is focused on bringing forward legislation in the context of “Resilience, Revenue, Reform, and Recovery: The Virgin Islands in Transition.”
But with just a few short weeks remaining before the House has to be dissolved ahead of expected general elections, it remains to be seen just how much of the government’s ambitious list of proposed new laws will be passed.
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