Protection of witnesses legislation gets first reading in National Assembly

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, APRIL 20TH 2012 (CUOPM) – Legislation introduced and given a first reading in the St. Kitts and Nevis National Assembly is aimed at establishing a programme for the protection of certain witnesses and other persons.

The Justice Protection Bill, 2012, in the name of Attorney General and Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, the Hon. Patrice Nisbett, seeks to ensure that adequate provision is made to secure the protection of threatened witnesses, vulnerable victims, jurors who are at risk, judges who are at risk and any other persons who are at risk because of their involvement in the activities of the Court as it continues to combat impunity and to provide justice for all.

“In some very serious cases the risk to a witness or certain other persons is so great that they may need to be provided with protection by the State in order to ensure their safety from threats or other acts of retaliation. In that regard, it is critically important that a more comprehensive approach should be taken in relation to the protection of such persons and this more comprehensive approach should include very specific legislation,” said the explanatory notes.

The Bill would work together with other laws relating to the making of threats and other similar legislation, such as the Offences Against the Person Act, currently enforced by the police.

This Bill would not preclude the police force and other law enforcement agencies from offering alternative methods of protection to witnesses and others at risk. Rather, this Bill would seek to strengthen the legal and institutional framework for witness protection.

The Bill would introduce an additional component to our system, that is, a more formal and regulated approach to witness protection.

Witness Protection, under this Bill, would generally be directed to those persons who will provide or have provided crucial evidence and against whom there is a real and substantial threat.

The Bill seeks to strengthen the system for witness protection in a manner that recognizes the immense ramifications that participating in such a programme, especially in terms of change of identity and relocation, could have on the lives of individual witnesses and that such measures should only be used sparingly.

In keeping with the policy of the government, The Justice Protection Bill, 2012, is now available for comments and suggestions from the general public and interest groups and is available on line at www.cuopm.com

Comments and suggestions can be sent to the Legal Department in the Attorney General’s Office, Government Headquarters, Church Street, Basseterre or email attorneygeneral@gov.kn

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