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Upper Chamber backs witness protection program

Posted: Saturday, March 19, 2022. 11:42 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: To better protect those whose information leads to the solving of crime, a Protection of Witnesses Bill contemplates the protection of the identities of witnesses so that they would be more willing to cooperate with police and the DPP’s Office.

Senator Eamon Courtenay, Leader of Government Business, remarked, “This piece of legislation seeks to put into the hands of law enforcement authorities powers which we are hoping will go a long way in bringing stronger criminal cases and allowing cases brought to court to proceed to trial in specialized circumstances which protects witnesses and also allows for particular ways in which evidence is to be given in order that trials may be conducted. One important thing has to be stated, and that is that due process, protection of fundamental rights and freedoms must, of course, be adhered to and upheld.”

Opposition Senator Michael Peyrefitte cautioned that the legislation can be abused to allow less than truthful witnesses to give evidence in a colorful explanation: “Nobody from the defense would be able to know who is making an accusation or serving as a witness against me if I’m charged for murder, for example. And I’ll tell you the dangers of that, Madam President. If they say I’ve committed a crime, Madam President, and it’s Senator Benguche for example, or Senator Jang, I can believe that their testimony will be unbiased and truthful. But if the one person who is the witness in that trial is Senator Courtenay, man, the evidence against me might not be objective. So, my attorney will need to know the background behind the relationship because it goes to truth and veracity.” Courtenay responded that the new Act will cover punishment of those who leak anonymous informants and witnesses’ names and information.

From the business community, Senator Kevin Herrera said the Police must be more professional: “The police will be working with information that may have the identity of those persons who are witnesses to these crimes, and if they don’t operate in a very professional way, Madam President, I think even before we get to the order, information will get out. And that’s the only point I really wanted to make. The professionalism of the police department is extremely important.”

This bill passed without amendments.

 

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