SVG working towards establishing witness protection programme
March 31, 2017

SVG working towards establishing witness protection programme

The Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force (RSVGPF) is currently working towards establishing a witness protection programme here.

In an interview with SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday, Deputy Commissioner of Police and Former Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Colin John said he attended a workshop a few months ago dealing with witness protection.

He said although SVG does not currently have an established witness protection programme, persons may give evidence anonymously or via video link, as part of the witness anonymity legislation.

“So, these are measures that we are putting in place in the interim to mitigate against issues like that,” said John.

The Deputy Commissioner, however, added that the programme to come would not put an end to persons being summoned to court, but there are other options apart from persons facing their accusers in court.

“In extreme cases, the person who is accused may not even know who the person is that is giving the evidence against them, once the proper application is made to the court and the magistrate or judge thinks it is a case that is consistent with what the law makes provision for,” he explained.

John, who is also a lawyer, said in that in rape cases, or any case where a witness suspects the likelihood of harm or damage to themselves, their relatives or their property, the prosecution could make an application to the court for them to give evidence anonymously.

He said that during the workshop, which involved most Caribbean countries, including all of the OECS, success stories were shared, so that participating island states could benefit from the knowledge and experience gained through the programme.

“So we are trying to establish programmes like that.”

John, however, was unable to state how soon the programme would be implemented.

During the interview, the Deputy Commissioner said that when he was at DPP’s office there was a programme called ‘No Witness No Justice,’ and took the opportunity to encourage witnesses to come forward.

“The police cannot be everywhere all the time, so we really depend on the witnesses to assist in a significant way in order to curb crime,” he added.(AS)