Witness protection not an inducement, says DC

| 26/03/2014

(CNS): Following allegations made by the defence team representing Raziel Jeffers, who is on trial for the murder of Damion Ming, the senior police officer in charge of witness protection denied that anyone in the programme is paid to give evidence. Steve Brougham, the RCIPS deputy commissioner who has overall responsibility for witness protection, such as it is in the Cayman Islands, told the court Wednesday that the crown’s key witness in the case against Jeffers was given expenses as she had been relocated overseas with her child and could not work where she was.

He stated, however, that while the police had a legal duty of care to those in the witness protection programme for the rest of their lives, the goal was still to help them become self-sufficient.

Brougham said there was no financial inducement in the programme for any witness and that no one was paid or was in a position to benefit personally for their testimony.

He agreed that the witness in question had probably been paid almost $80,000 since she was taken into protective custody almost, four years ago, which covered her basic living expenses, rent utilities, medical bills and the cost of both her studies and that of her young son, who now goes to school.

Although Brougham gave very little away about how the witness protection scheme worked, he explained that there is no law in the Cayman Islands covering the issue because although legislation has been passe,d it has never been assented. He said, however, that the police follow the spirit of that stalled legislation, as well as the UK guidelines for dealing with vulnerable witnesses.

He said when an assessment is made about relocating a witness whose life is in danger, their future ability to work is considered. He said efforts are made to transition witnesses to be self-sufficient and live their new lives without needing to depend on financial support from the public purse.

Brougham’s evidence about witness protection followed almost two days of expert evidence from a specialist police officer in connection with telephone records. The RCIPS expert gave detailed explanations to the jury about the calls and messages on the cell phones of various witnesses and other named individuals relevant to the evidence as well as the defendant. 

The expert spoke about how cell phones also record the movements of people as a result of the trail of cell phone towers used when calls and messages are made and received.  

The expert revealed that while the movements of Jeffers' cell phones were wholly consistent with the crown’s claims that he left George Town on the evening of the killing of Damion Ming and made his way to the murder scene, where his phone was just before the shooting, the records were equally supportive of Jeffers' claim that he was not at 177 Birch Tree Hill, where Ming was gunned down, but at another location in West Bay.

The crown’s case continues Thursday in Grand Court One, when the crown will be calling further police witnesses before it is expected to close its case.

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