Legislation granting the court the power to protect the identity of witnesses in criminal proceedings has moved a step closer to implementation in the British Virgin Islands.
This is through one of the final decisions the Cabinet made under an NDP administration.
The decision was for instructions to be given to the Attorney General’s Chambers to begin drafting Witness Anonymity legislation.
If or when implemented, witnesses could be granted anonymity if they fear for themselves or perhaps their family’s safety.
In situations where anonymity is required, there is typically a suspected threat of death, injury, retaliation, recrimination, oppression or damage to property if witnesses in question are identified.
While delivering his Speech from the Throne a year ago, Governor Augustus Jaspert said legislators would have introduced the bill in short order.
He described the legislation as “an invaluable tool in assisting with combating serious crime” while at the same time helping to “re-establish public confidence in the criminal justice system”.
The Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVPF) has usually had challenges getting witnesses of serious crimes to come forward with information, even in cases where police offer substantial monetary awards. One of the suspected reasons for this includes a fear of their (witnesses) identities becoming exposed.
Lack of confidence in the RVIPF has been often noted as a setback in that regard.
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