Secret witness bill now law

| 02/03/2010

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman headline news, Cayman Legislative Assembly(CNS): The government has now passed the Criminal Evidence (Witness Anonymity) Bill 2010, which will enable people to give evidence anonymously to the police during investigations and  to the court during trial proceedings. The bill was presented to the Legislative Assembly on Monday afternoon by Attorney General Samuel Bulgin, who admitted that, as a result of the urgency to pass the new bill, the criminal the defence community had not been consulted. However, Bulgin said the new law protected the rights of the accused as well as the anonymity of witnesses with a genuine fear who would not come forward without that protection.

The attorney general said the new legislation demonstrated that, as in the past, when necessary the members of the Legislative Assembly were prepared to do what it takes to pass laws that would help the police to combat the rising levels of crime in the country. However, Bulgin warned that the legislation was no silver bullet and that Cayman “could not legislate itself out of the current scourge” of rising crime. “What we need is people power and for people to come forward with what they know about the crimes that are being committed,’ Bulgin added. “We have to trust someone with what we know.”

He noted that the new legislation was aimed at protecting those that did have such information when it came to violent crimes involving weapons and when there was legitimate fear on their part. He noted, however, that in order for this legislation to work people had to have absolute faith in the anonymity, and he said those who administer this law had to maintain its security. “It would take only one breach for the whole thing to unravel,” the attorney general warned. “When people come forward the state must uphold its side of the bargain.”

The AG pointed out that the anonymity had to be only in cases of genuine fear and that there would be safeguards in the law to ensure the accuracy and credibility of witness testimony and that the rights of the accused to confront their accuser would not be undermined. Bulgin stated that the fundamental right to a fair trail had been protected under the new legislation.

The country’s top prosecutor said there was a genuine need for the legislation as there had been a number of cases in recent Cayman history where witnesses had “been subtly and disturbingly intimidated” and threatened. This law would facilitate the ability of witnesses to bring evidence without the fear of harm. The AG also pointed out to the Legislative Assembly that the law was not incompatible with the European Union Convention on Human Rights.

The new law provides for witnesses’ names and other identifying details to be withheld or removed from materials disclosed to any party in criminal proceedings. It allows a witness to use a pseudonym and prevents questions of any specified description that might lead to the identification of the witness. Witnesses can also be screened or their voices subjected to modulation.

The law states that consideration must be given to the general right of a defendant in criminal proceedings to know the identity of a witness, as well as the credibility of the witness. It asks the court to consider if the evidence is the sole or decisive evidence implicating the defendant and if the evidence can be properly tested, whether on grounds of credibility or otherwise, without his identity being disclosed, and whether there is any reason to believe that the witness has a tendency or motive to be dishonest in the case. The law also indicates that the judge should warn the jury appropriately to ensure witness anonymity does not prejudice the defendant.

The law will apply to murder, manslaughter, rape and robbery, as well as an attempt to commit any of those crimes where any weapon is involved and not just a firearm.

The AG stated that the government had received assistance from the Ministry of Justice in the UK, where the legislation is already in place but he regretted the fact that the legislation had not had the usual 21 days public consultation period. He said he had not had time to contact the criminal defence bar for their opinions on the legislation but hoped it had been drafted in a clear and concise form covering the key areas and protecting the fundamental right to a fair trial.

The bill received backing from both sides of the Legislative Assembly, though Alden McLaughlin pointed out that it was extraordinary legislation which reflected the circumstances in which Cayman now found itself.

Category: Headline News

Comments (16)

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  1. Kissimae Avenuoa says:

    Date: Mar.11.2010

    Subject: Crime/ Government/ The cause of crime/ others.

    BE ADVISED WHEN READING:  You may like and or dislike my opinion as well as you may  agree but  these are my personally opinion.

    I wonder if the witness protection plan will actually help with the crime and its rate; that has been sky high since the year of 2003 to present. However if it should help i’ll give  it 10 kudos…. but I’ll have to actually see that first before I can actually say that!!!…. Any how let’s get down to business. Crime starts from: Ambitous Young Caymanian’s + Expacts = Unemployment  which later leads to the start of the terms " HUSTLING" anyway possible to collect some money either to pay debts and or survive should this really be another alternative is Grand Cayman  that poor??…. GOVERNMENT SHOULD STOP WASTE MONEY ON ROADS,EXPACTS, AND OTHER UNNECESSARY THINGS. What the government should look at is no caymanian by birth not talking about any status holder a caymanian by birth should not be living in any slums eg: Government homes, Trailer homes etc .  When you really look at their situation picture YOURSELF in their shoes every day waking up to something that looks like misery, unhappy…. nothing that looks beautiful and cheerful to help start your day off… caymanian’s are unhappy admit it only thing that may help keep a smile on their faces is when they go else where for a visit … but honestly we are all fed up with Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands && it’s GOVERNMENT!!! Caymanian should come first && people don’t think I’m talking about building them a huge massion but an actual home where they can be HUMBLE , SMILE && It’s not fake it’s genwine… because they are finally happy with their country. AND THEN ———- >

     —–> If they have more than enough money to help their own people first …. then ONCE ALL CAYMANIAN’S ARE SORTED OUT !!!!!!!! then you can check on some expact if they need a extra meal ticket to live off.

    Sorry expacts but this my country and I’m ONLY SPEAKING FOR BIRTH CAYMANIAN’S SO IF YOU ALL DON’T LIKE IT; GO AHEAD AND PUT YOUR THUMPS DOWN I DON’T CARE!!!

  2. Anonymous says:

    This is what we needed from a long time ago. Some of these crimes could have been prevented or may have never happend.

    I am sure their is an uncertantity about it only because no one has ever use this procedure as yet. I am sure once it is pracitced there will be success with it. All we can do is hope and try what we can to work against the crimes taking place on our little island.

    The main problem is that this little Island is small. Everyone basically knows everyone or it isnt hard to find out who is who. So witnesses are afraid to come forward in fear of their life. Let’s just be honest we have had some known witnesses to crimes come up dead before.

    If you just do what you know you should and leave the rest to God then why worry about this new law? I say it is a fabulous idea and bring in the doggy tags for the law offenders on bail.

  3. Anonymous says:

    This is one step closer to cleaning up the streets of cayman

  4. Dennie Warren Jr. says:

    I too am very concerned about the speed with which this and other legislation is being passed.  It is currently unnecessary to suspend the Standing Orders of the Legislature to address crime.

    The human rights implications are enormous, especially, where this particular Bill, now law, gives the members of Cabinet the power to amend this new LAW at anytime the elected members of Cabinet wish without any debate in, or without first requiring the consent of the Legislature.  That too is very dangerous!!!  URL: http://www.gazettes.gov.ky/pls/portal30/docs/Folder/SITE83/GAZETTES/ES2010/ES052010_0.PDF

    The Commissioner of Police claims to know who the criminals are.  He also claims to be monitoring the criminals.  If the previously mentioned is true, how is it that the Commissioner of Police could not prevent the four year old boy from losing his life?

    Criminals do not have any human right to commit crimes; therefore, destroying our human rights is, in my view, only a diversionary strategy by the Commissioner of Police to cover what I consider to be his poor performance.

    This is the first of a series of bit-size attacks on our rights to come, so, make your voice heard, if you care!

  5. Anonymous says:

    I was speaking with a local person the other day and he said no way would he ever testify against anyone for any reason. Now I have no reason to think that he is all that much different from anyone else so the lips will remain sealed.

    All those local people and perhaps expats for that matter who were at the nightclub and watched the murder some 150 of you and haven’t said a word. All your families who knew you were there and never said a word. With all included we could be talking about 500 or more people who have kept their mouths shut.

    But cell phones were used to take photos of the death scene and send around the island.

    God bless the Cayman Islands we deserve it.

    • Lachlan MacTavish says:

       Need to step in. It is not just then gangs or criminals. The abuse from the politicos of this country re intimidation, bullying and down right threats have certainly contributed to the attitude that Joe Public does not want to expose him or herself. We all act like this is a modern society BUT we should all look at what we have allowed to grow. 

  6. Anonymous says:

    Does not a “law” after the LA approves it, have to be signed by the Governor before it becomes into effect?
    So did he?

  7. Anonymous says:

    When legislation such as this is passed, it is usually a knee jerk reaction. This is scarey stuff that will return to haunt us.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Too bad the AG did not act this quickly to prevent two individuals (who were disqualified according to the constitution) from taking part in the recent elections.

  9. Anonymous says:

    About time!

    Now people come forward and spill the beans on these criminals reaking havoc and lets be done with them!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Just curious, how does one cross-examine an anonymous witness?

    • Twyla Vargas says:

      I hope that where there is a will, there is a way.  I hope it will work.   God knows we are tired of hearing crimes being committed and the eye no see and the tongue no talk.

    • Knal N. Domp says:

      Anonymously. 

    • Anonymous says:

      In the event the matter goes to trial, the law should (presumably) have provisions so that the witness can give evidence during a trial without revealing their identity. This can be achieved by the utilisation of screens so that only the judge, counsel and the usher can see the witness (they use this in the UK) or by a live video link where the person can be heard, but not seen. Consequently, it is possible to test the veracity of an ‘anonymous’ witness during a trial.

      • frank rizzo says:

        A 55-gal. drum should do the trick, and a bit more economically in these times too.  Essential to justice is the ability to cross-examine an accuser and certainly that the prosecution produce credible corroborative evidence to support any evidence given anonymously.

  11. Concern says:

    While the idea has merits, I am very concerned about the speed with which this and other legislation is being passed.  Have the human rights concerns associated with this been considered by the HRC (or even an organisation that cares about human rights)?  Tough times and speedy responses tend to lead to bad legislation.