Georgetown, Guyana, (November 06, 2015) – Cabinet has approved for submission to the National Assembly, a draft of the Witness Protection Bill. This announcement was made yesterday by Minister of Governance, Raphael Trotman, during a post-Cabinet press briefing at the Ministry of the Presidency.
The Bill, according to the Minister, seeks to establish a programme for the protection of witnesses who give evidence in the courts of Guyana. It is part of a crime and security initiative that is being led by CARICOM.
Minister Trotman said that the legislation will ensure the protection of witnesses and their families against intimidation and or physical harm during and after their involvement in court proceedings. The measure to be enacted includes the establishment of safe houses, the granting of assistance to participants and the provision of new identities, where necessary.
He explained that already sister CARICOM countries, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, and Barbados, have started to work with each other in terms of moving witnesses before, during and after trials, within each other’s countries.
“I have no doubt that Guyana will avail itself of the opportunity to do the same if it believes that it is necessary to have persons in other jurisdictions…it is a CARICOM initiative and Guyana is now coming on stream. This legislation will give us a sense of uniformity and allow us to enter into that existing framework,” the Minister explained.
With regard to additional support for this initiative, he added that countries in the region could possibly tap into existing mechanisms such as the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI). He also spoke of the announcement by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (UK), David Cameron, of large grant to the Caribbean. Since this grant focuses largely on security, it may be a possible source of funding for the furthering of the witness protection initiative.
CARICOM’s Regional Justice Protection Programme recognises the need to uphold the integrity of the justice system of Member States and the need to prevent any interference in the administration of justice by the intimidation or elimination of witnesses, jurors, judicial and legal officers, and law enforcement personnel.