St. Kitts and Nevis lawmakers vote to replace 135-year-old EvidenceAct, new law makes provisions for DNA and electronic evidence

Attorney General and Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, Hon. Patrice Nisbett in the St. Kitts and Nevis National Assembly.

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, OCTOBER 6TH 2011 (CUOPM) – Law makers in St. Kitts and Nevis have replaced its 135-year old Evidence Act that originated out of the United Kingdom, like most of our pre-independence legislation.

The St. Kitts and Nevis National Assembly presided over by the Speaker, the Hon. Curtis Martin voted unanimously Tuesday to replace the Evidence Act Cap. 25, which originally was Act No. 3 of 1876, with the Evidence Act, 2011.

“Over time the Act has been amended several times, however, it would be understandable that as time and society have evolved that several crucial areas of the law of evidence are not directly or specifically provided for under the current legislation. To make provision for these matters would require an extensive amendment of the Act and we therefore believe it would be a more prudent exercise to replace the Act in its entirety,” said Attorney General and Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, the Hon. Patrice Nisbett.

He told lawmakers that the Evidence Bill was drafted after extensive informal consultation process between the Attorney General’s Chambers, the St. Kitts and Nevis Bar Association, the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force, the Judiciary in the Federation and other stakeholders which began early in 2009.

“This consultation process was very important because of the highly technical nature of this legislation,” said the Attorney General, who expressed gratitude to those who participated in the process and submitted comments and recommendations which came out of that consultation process and would like to express our gratitude to all those who participated in the process after the Bill was introduced and given its first reading in October 2010.

Attorney General and Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, Hon. Patrice Nisbett in the St. Kitts and Nevis National Assembly.Lee Llewellyn Moore Judicial and Legal Service Complex which houses two Magistrate’s Court and a High Court (Photos by Erasmus Williams)

Mr. Nisbett, the Federation’s fourth Attorney General since Independence said the reforms to the Evidence Act were overdue as most of the proposed provisions in the Evidence Bill were based on deficiencies in the current system and various contemporary approaches to the treatment of evidence legislation regionally and internationally.

“Several jurisdictions have from time to time recognised the need for greater equity or a more balanced evidential process and we have examined the various approaches to determine the best way forward for the Federation,” said the Attorney General, who disclosed that some of the criminals are attempting to derail the trial process by whatever means necessary.

“In a recent murder case a defendant who had had the audacity to assassinate a police officer in the Federation went on to orchestrate the murder of a witness in that case. That defendant has been found guilty of both murders. Mr. Speaker, in another recent high profile case an eye-witness to the murder of the child of a high ranking police officer was himself murdered a few days before the date for the preliminary inquiry. There have been many cases where eye-witnesses have retracted their statements made at the preliminary inquiry. This includes cases where eye-witnesses who initially gave detailed statements on a particular murder at the preliminary inquiry those same witnesses subsequently indicated that they had heard nothing, seen nothing or knew nothing about the same murder. These recalcitrant and reluctant witnesses have even included family members of the murder victim. Mr. Speaker, what do you believe would be the cause of such a radical change of mind in such cases? I submit that the main rationale for this kind of about-face is nothing less than fear,” said Attorney General Nisbett.

Such imperatives he said have inspired proposed controversial provisions of the Bill, which would apply to all proceedings in a court of St. Kitts and Nevis.

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