Secret witness bill coming

| 20/02/2010

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman headline news, Cayman legislation, Cayman Governor Duncan Taylor(CNS): The proposal to allow individuals to give evidence in court anonymously has been approved by Cabinet, the governor has confirmed. Duncan Taylor chaired an emergency cabinet meeting on Friday when the proposal was discussed and agreed, paving the way for a bill to come before the Legislative Assembly next Wednesday when the country’s parliament reconvenes. The police commissioner has been seeking a change in the legislation almost since he arrived and the recent events have propelled the proposal to the top of government’s agenda.

The proposal will allow witnesses to serious crimes, in particular firearms and gang related crimes, to give evidence in court without their identity being revealed. A number of senior officers have confirmed that there are unsolved cases currently being investigated which could be brought to court if this legislation is passed. Speaking at a special press briefing on Tuesday of last week following the murder of four-year-old Jeremiah Barnes by gunmen at a gas station in West Bay on Monday 15 February, the governor said this legislation would not be a panacea but a tool for the police.  

“I hope that it will help ensure that people will feel if they have information … to come forward … to help police put people away,” he told New 27 on Friday evening. “It is possible it will be of assistance to the police very rapidly.”

In an ideal world the RCIPS would prefer to have witnesses that come forward openly. However, Baines said he acknowledged the perceptions in the community that witness identities are often revealed even before cases reach the courts.

“There is the perception that information is leaked and people are then exposed,” Baines said last week. “But we will handle information confidentially and anyone who breaches it I will dismiss.”

He said the perception that the police are leaking all the information is not true but if the public constantly respond to that misconception it becomes self serving. He also beseeched the community to come forward regarding the latest crime. “We have a young boy, a baby in fact, this has to overcome self interest.”

However, on Thursday while confirming that four people were in custody in connection with the shooting the police released a statement indicating that, three days after the incident not one person had voluntarily come forward to give evidence.

Following the call from the police regarding a key witnesses that was reportedly seen at the forecourt filling his car at the pumps before the incident occurred, the community has been questioning the safety of that individual now the police have publically indicated he may have seen the incident while at the same time describing his vehicle, which they believe would probably identify him in the neighbourhood.

Faced by these challenges and a perception of fear, fuelled by historic incidents of witnesses being shot and threatened, the police also have forensic evidence challenges with no crime lab in the jurisdiction. This means there is a great risk on the integrity of evidence and maintaining its chain. Furthermore, with resources strained, long planned training for officers to use more modern interview techniques, such as audio and even video equipment, is long overdue. Consequently eye witness testimony continues to be a fundamental tool in the police arsenal.

The new legislation, which the police hope will turn around the reluctance in the community, will allow witnesses to give evidence during trials through voice distortion and from behind screens.

See News 27 video of the governor

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  1. Ilegal banana's says:

    I am a firm believer in a persons rights including the rights to face your accusers. As much as i was sickened by these murder of that poor child, i think we should not act in haste in implementing the secret witness act or what ever they wan call it.

    measure must be taken to make the police service more professional.  Tipping off in money laundering cases attracts 14 years sentences and unlimited fines, just codify this for the police service as well. 

    Blood may be thicker than water, so is honey i.e. we all love our freedom more than those that are committing crimes

    the prison is currently not a deterrant to people who also do not fear the police force and seem them as toothless bull dogs, simple solution, get all officer certified on every weapon in the armry, get them all pshchological profiles, arm them to the teeth and lets see if the gangsters want come test the rocket launcher

    codify in the witness protection act, that any tipping and passing of information will result in a 3 year hard laour sentence, people know the gossipers and if there is a gwan, they will switch off their phones lest they get given 36 calendar months as the queens guest.

    Officers in uniform should not be allowed to carry person cellphones and other non sanctioned comms equipement – whats is unacceptabel is to see officers diriving while speaking on their cell phones.

    What if a man is falsely accused and his name is run through the mud? from what i gather the state usually folks out for these rather than the witnesess…trade carefully governor, abuses by the state are plenty the world over…at the same time lets not just sit around look at other aspect that are weak

  2. Anonymous says:

    I know something but if the person is arrested he will kill me.  What do I do for now? I am too scared to use crime stoppers.

  3. Watering Hole says:

    Thank you Your Excellency Duncan Taylor, but this charity must begin at the police stattion.

    Not all police talk too much but there are a few, who will inocently open their mouth to the wrong persons, not realizing the danger.

    Whengiving evidence to police in a criminal case I would suggest that the evidence be given discretely, preferably in presence of the Commissioner because Caymanians are afraid to talk to the police from Cayman and especially from Jamaica.   This is dangerous, believe what I am saying.

    It is a very good idea, but it has to begin at the police station. 

  4. Dred says:

    I would be very interested in seeing the wording of this legislation.

     

    The part that interest me would be the part about the police and what would happen to them should they release the identity of anonymous witnesses. I hope and pray it’s not just released. I want criminal charges filed which will result in financial lose and prison time.

     

    If this bill is to have any respect by the community it must have SERIOUS teeth to it. The community needs to feel that the Police Officer will have to think more than twice about giving out the information. I don’t think being released from his/her job even begins to address this and in fact it is an insult to witnesses who could be placing their lives and their families lives in the hands of the system to know their existence value is the loss of a job to a police officer.

     

    We want criminal charges somewhat along the lines of aiding and abetting criminal activity.

  5. Caymanian says:

    Finally, they listen to ol’ Baines…  The dismissal of big mouth officers does not sit easy with me though, i agree with a previous poster they should be locked up for a very long time.. Gotta give them some incentive to keep their mouths shut!

  6. Common Sense says:

     Hey people, you KNOW who owns a gun, you KNOW who owns a machete, you KNOW who is doing and / or selling drugs, now it is time for YOU to TELL THE POLICE…..scare the hell out of anyone who is walking on the wrong side of the law and urge them to go straight.  The families of these criminals must turn them in!

  7. Anonymous says:

    I am most heartened to observe our new Governor as he settles into this ever so difficult position, "Governor of the Cayman Islands". For what it is worth, I will say that in my opinion H.E. is doing a good job, albeit early days. It is obvious that he has a certain strength about him that will be needed to succeed but, importantly, he also knows how to balance it. I would like to thank Mr. Taylor and encourage him to not be intimidated by the windbag threats that come from those we have elected and who are failing us but know that the majority of the Caymanian people support him in his new role as Governor.

  8. Looking into the fishbowl says:

    The legal provisions they are bringing in mimic the UK statutes.  Therefore it becomes a criminal offence for a police officer to leak information relating to the identity of a witness.  Simple.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Thank God we now appear to have a Governor with the brass to take a stand and do something! Thank you Your Excellency.

    • Anonymous says:

      Please Mr Governor just dont get fooled with all the feet washing that is just a tactic. Dont be fooled nor scared of them as you have the Public behind you. Our once good Country needs help. The little man on the street has the better ideas.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Secret Testimony……….

     

    So caymanians don’t want the right to face their accusers anymore?  How do you cross examine someone if you don’t know who they are?  

    This is a terrible idea that goes against all tenants of justice.

    • Anonymous says:

      Totally agree.

      Allowing secret testimony allows the government to imprison whomever it chooses by admitting "secret" testimony. 

      Doesn’t this violate the defendant’s right to due process?

      (American view, sorry if this concept doesn’t exist in UK/Cayman system).

      Not legal advice!  I also realize that Cayman is small, which probably scares potential informants and witnesses.

      However, the potential of abuse is way too high when the government can claim some secret informant gives testimony against a defendant who cannot face their accuser…

      No doubt it works (see Saudi Arabia or Singapore, LOL),  But is it worth the invasion of freedom?

       

    • Anonymous says:

      Secret Tips = great idea
      Secret Witness = less reliable

      Eyewitness evidence is the least reliable evidence and here’s why:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eyewitness_identification

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forgetting_curve

  11. Anonymous says:

     this governor is the best so far i think..

  12. Anonymous says:

    Itis becoming more and more clear that some of the persons posting here are deliberately trying to scare people out of providing information to the police and are doing so to protect the criminal scum. It ispossible that some may be the scum themselves, although others would suggest that the scum are unlikely to be able to compose a written sentence or use a computer as anything other than an ashtray. 

    Others who post messages which have the effect of undermining efforts to gain information on the criminals may just be evil mischief makers. Yet others may be simple minded folk who actually believe the "duppie stories" surronding these low life scum.

    Those old enough will remember "duppie stories". Many of them had the bottom line, "If ya don’t hush up and do as ya told de duppy goin’ git ya." I take comfort in what my gran used to say about duppies which is that, "Duppies don’t like bats – ya never see both in da same place." I take gran very seriously so I make sure that I have bats at my house. I am not sure that gran and I mean the same thing however. The bats I have don’t fly unless I cause them to – some are cricket, some aluminum baseball type. So far there have been no duppies in my yard. I suspect that if everyone made sure that they had bats available there would be fewer duppies around. 

     

  13. what a mess says:

    Good start Governor !

    But we must go further than simply "dismiss" a cop who breaks confidentiality, who leaks information. Such officers must be punished to the FULL extent of the law. Cayman is already paying too much (financially and otherwise) for Govt. simply "dismissing"…or retiring their own (brushing such matters under the carpet). Such public officers must be truly held accountable if we are to improve public confidence.

    And i really can’t understand what the Commisioner and others are talking about when they speak of "needed training for video/audio interviews" ? How difficult can this be to do? (the actual training…and arranging for same) how much planning and consulting does it take to arrange and send some officers for this training?? This truly is baffling to us ordinary citizens…after all we operate video/audio machines almost as commonly as we use our cell phones…(actally our cell phones can do the job!) Come now Commish, let’s get er done!

    I do agree this will not be some "magic bullet". Those at the top will need to lead by example to promote real accountability by behaving always with true Professional Ethics if we are to affect what is now a growing criminal mentality throughout much of Cayman…and the World. This will most importantly include our Politicians (learning first) then, exhibiting attitudes and behaviors to promote social justice/harmony rather than only looking at short term financial gain, with little or no concern for the long term impact.

    Still, Good start and thanks Governor!

  14. au revoir says:

    Be very careful with this one.

    It is very true that there is a current problem, but secret witnesses is on the road to somewhere very nasty for everyone except authoritarian governments.

    ==========================================================

    couldn’t agree more.  cayman already lacks basic civil and human rights.  the proposal to provide government with even greater powers is troubling.   all authoritarian/despotic governments of the past used similar methods to imprison or execute people labeled as "state enemies".  although this is not quite the on same level, it leads to even less transparency (as if there is any to begin with), and to greater loss of our liberties.

  15. Anonymous says:

    This is just another political no-brainer that will be legislated.

    You have to come better than this in my book.

    RCIPS officers who expose witnesses identity should not only be dismissed, but sent to join the criminals  they are protecting just as any member of the public would be for protecting criminals.

    Until such measures is written into the legislation you are not convincing the public that you are being any different than you are now.

    Dont wate the Legislators time if this legislation is not going to have teeth that bite hard.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I am glad that the Governor appears to have a handle on things even if the worthless bunch of frequent flyers that passes for our elected government does not. I simply cannto understand why both political parties seem to be trying to compete to do the least to take the criminals attacking our society seriously. 

    The Witness Protection Bill is clearly a step in the right direction but it took far to long to be brought forward and is simply not adequate to combat the criminal scum that are killing our children. It is shameful that this government appears to be doing as little as possible to combat crime. If they had any interest in the security of the people of Cayman they would have brought in ancrime fighting bill with a variety of greatly needed new legislation and Cabinet directives.

    We need a legislative framework that creates deterrents, increases conviction rates and gets the thugs off the streets for a very very long time.

    Immediate legislative changes needed for effective crime prevention – which the members of the LA can put through any time they get off their lazy a$$es include:

    1) Double the current minimum penalties for all violent crime. The current penalties are obviously not working either as a deterrent or as a means of keeping the violent criminals off our streets. If we lock up the violent criminals for a very very long time they won’t be on the street killing innocent children.

    2) End the revolving door parole policy which puts them back on the street in a few hours or days or weeks. There should be no parole for any violent crime. Instead there should be a system under which any persons convicted of any violent crime can have their prison sentence greatly extended for any discipline problems in prison. That way when the come out the public can have some sense that these thugs have learned to behave themselves.

    3) Revise the rules for bail – it should be an exceedingly rare thing for any person accused of a violent crime involving a weapon to get bail if there is any evidence to place before a court that an offence has occurred. As it is – persons arrested are given bail and are out of jail and terrifying witnesses and the rest of the community within hours. That is ridiculous.

    4) Make it mandatory that all assets of these thugs are confiscated once they are convicted of gang activities unless they can show beyond reasonable doubt that they obtained such assets through honest work. That might make the higher level thugs who now drive around in blacked out expensive cars a bit more cautious.

    5) Bring in US style RICO legislation which makes it a crime to even be part of one of the gangs. The current anti-gang legislation is completely ineffective.

    6)) Make Northward into a place that terrifies the criminals so that they are deterred. That way if we catch one of the little fish he may be more willing to help convict the bigger fish. Please don’t make me believe that the PPM is interested in protecting the bigger fish. There is already another political party that does that.

    7) Support the proposals to give substantial rewards for persons coming forward with evidence to help convict these thugs. That should also be a "no brainer".

    I am sure that it is clear to all of our politician’s that the public wants strong action taken. On that basis I suggest that the failure of any politician to step up and take a strong stance to punish the criminals should suggest to all voters where a significant part of that politician’s campaign funding is coming from.

     

     

     

  17. Anonymous says:

    Duncan Taylor chaired an emergency cabinet meeting on Friday when the proposal was discussed and agreed, paving the way for a bill to come before the Legislative Assembly next Wednesday when the country’s parliament reconvenes.

    I am happy to see that we finally have one person on the island who can make a decision and move forward with it in the absence of the Premier.

  18. Xeno says:

    Be very careful with this one.

    It is very true that there is a current problem, but secret witnesses is on the road to somewhere very nasty for everyone except authoritarian governments.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree with this poster, this is a slippery slope.

    • anonymous says:

      that was the killer trying to scare you away fromj secret witnesses. Only a criminal scum would speak out against secret witnessing.

      Any two year old knows that.

      • Xeno says:

        Don’t be childish; I have nothing to do with these horrid people.

        I am trying to remind people of where this sort of legislation has taken people before. How would you feel if you or a loved one were arrested for crimes undisclosed based on evidence that you were not allowed to know from witnesses unnamed? This is a long way down the road from this proposal, but this could be a first step. All I am saying is don’t act in haste to solve the current problem only to regret it latter when it is abused.
  19. God made Grass, Man made Liquor says:

    The Lord made Grass, Man Made Liquor.  Who do you trust?

    If Ganja were legal/tolerated, there would be less money incentive to deal and much less crime.

    See Mexico for an example of what happens when you have strict drug policy, CIA interventions, government involvement, etc.

    The war on drugs is a failure.

    The key to stopping drugs is a strong family with educating the young ones.

    If people choose to get high, they should be allowed to, just zero tolerance for DUI, dealing to kids etc.

    Those people should be dealt with a la Singapore, heavy imprisonment or worse.

    • Adam Smith says:

      The best way to cut gang crime in Cayman would be to legalise drugs and gambling and take away their most profitable revenue streams.  As a matter of behavioural economics it is a no brainer.

  20. Wisereef says:

    Nothing is ever anonymous in Cayman.  Let’s talk about a bill to protect witnesses.  Then let’s pass a law to protect witnesses.  And then let’s enforce the law that protects witnesess.

    Until all laws are enforced, I can’t see the benefit to the witnesses who give evidence anonymously.

    Giving evidence with the promise of my identity being kept secret is no comfort.  If I give evidence, someone will eventually find out my identity by simple calculation. Or worse yet add 2 and 2 and come up with five.  How do I protect myself if I’m the one who adds up to five?  All that is being proposed now is to supposedly protect the person giving the evidence and not the person who adds up to five.

    Let step up the bills and talk about how to really protect the witnesses.

    This propoganda is for the benefit of the people who are making the noise in an effort to show that the Cayman Islands is trying to crack down on crime.  This is false security to Caymanians, residents and people who are genuine.

    Do you think we are stupid?  There is no such thing as a dumb Caymanian yet unless they choose to subscribe to promises from unreliable sources.

    • all it takes for evil to triump is good men to do nothing says:

      There is no such thing as a dumb Caymanian yet unless they choose to subscribe to promises from unreliable sources.

      Who voted Mac in?  Expats?  Guess it was dumb Caymanians subscribing to promises from unreliable promises.

      All Caymanians do is complain.  No matter what the police do you complain.  Tell you what..stop harboring your criminal boyfriends, sons and husbands.  Turn them in.  You all know where the guns, etc are hidden.

  21. Anonymous says:

    who will ensure the police dont blab the information to everyone as per usual?

    • Here goes says:

      Agreed.

      Taking you back to the text messages that were circulated last week re: police operations.

      I am assuming it was a member of the operation (or planned operations) who sent his cousin, aunty, uncle etc. a heads up and everyone who received it did the same and also included a few friends… The next operation maybe broadcast via a telephone call to a select few (This time only close family members). Think about it…

      Now here’s my question; I came here and heard the saying "blood is thicker than water". For whatever it’s worth, that does not prevent rampant incest in this community, do you think a blood related Police officers will not "blab” to his/her gang member cousin, brother, uncle etc. who an informant is? Think about it…

      The community is so tight knit that persons are confused at times on whether to moan the violent death of a local or to condemn the perpetrator if he his/she turns out to be a local – – or the family connections of the victim or the perpetrator dictate the community’s reaction. Think about it…

      I strongly believe that the two reasons why persons are not passing information to the Cops are;

      · The fear of the Cops blabbing as the poster above mentioned.

      · The fact that the person(s) affected or witnesses are possibly relative to the perpetrator(s)

      I am recommending that Cayman explore a COP exchange program with Jurisdictions experiencing similar issues, Turks and BVI. I belive this will complement the Secret Withness Bill.

       

      Thanks CNS.

  22. Peter Milburn says:

    Its high time that this was put in place and its amazing how fast something can be done if  the powers that be get off their duffs.Lets hope this piece of legislature will make a BIG difference.

  23. Anonymous says:

    “But we will handle information confidentially and anyone who breaches it I will dismiss.”

    Dismissal is not even close to adequate Mr Baines. If a civilian tips off criminals so as to facilitate their avoidance of successful prosecution, they may be charged with perverting the course of justice. A person in a position of trust such as a police officer who tips off criminals should not only face these charges as well, but should be subjected to the most harsh penalty the law allows for such an offence. In my view such a police officer should get at least 20 years without parole. Indicating that any police officer found to be passing information will not only be dismissed, but will also be arrested and charged with perverting the course of justice, THAT will improve public confidence.  

     

     

  24. Shock andAwe says:

    Excellent.  At least this Governor has a grip on the situation, and, rather than undermine the police, is willing to assist them. 

    I would go one step further than Baines, however.  Any officer found to be passing on witness identification should not only be dismissed, but criminally charged. They will be breaking this upcoming Witness Protection Act and should be punished to the full extent. Mere dismissal is not sufficient.

  25. Anonymous says:

    This should have been in place a long time ago, why do we have to always be a reactive society!

    The Commissioner has wanted this from time he first arrived, why has it taken so long, who was holding back, obviously it was sitting on someone’s desk, then we have to have an emergency meeting for it to be agreed, hello,why?? Thank God it is now done, it should be named after Jeremiah.

    We are busy travelling all over the world to bring in foreign investment, that is all good, but we need to take a look at home first. Protect us the Caymanian people, remember we don’t have body guards.

     

     

  26. Anonymous says:

     OK, this is a fantastic step in the right direction.  I cannot understand why it is so difficult to have audio/video of police interviews.  The Grand Court has 2 rooms which  have been set up with video equipment which allows testimony by persons who are not within the jurisdiction.  This was used during the trial of Lyndon Martin.  If the Judicial Department which is the law portion of our criminal investigations has this why can the RCIP not acquire this as well.  In addition, there are videographers on Island who do videotape of all sorts of celebrations, including street sessions etc.  Is there something different in that videographic equipment than what these people use.  I do not understand why this is a problem.  If possible have one of the camera stores on Island donate this equipment to the police.  Every year we have these non-governmental organisations doing all these good deeds, well one year maybe they can put their fund raising efforts to raise funds for this videography equipment.  There is a company in the UK called Clear View Communications.  From their website you have audio/video digital equipment as per that used in law enforcement for prices starting from 1,000 pounds sterling.  I am sure that we can contact Clear View and see if they can send a team down on a trial basis to test their equipment. We have to do something.