DPP laments lack of resources for witness protection

DIRECTOR of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn wants more resources to be channelled into the Government's witness protection programme, especially given the increase in the number of key witnesses to major crimes who refuse to enter the programme.

"Witness intimidation is at its highest. What I would really recommend is that more needs to be done in respect of the Witness Protection Programme, because you can have all the jurors, but if you don't have the witnesses the case is going to go through the window," Llewellyn told a meeting of the Observer Press Club on Friday.

tor of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn (right) makes a point while addressing editors and reporters during a meeting of the Observer Press Club on Friday at the newspaper’s Kingston office. Among the team of persons accompanying the DPP were Lisa Palmer-Hamilton (centre), senior deputy director and head of the Human Rights, Intellectual Property and Sexual Offences Unit; and Diahann Gordon-Harris deputy director of public prosecutions and deputy head of the Mutual Legal Assistance Unit and the Financial Crimes Unit. (Photo: Napthali Junior)


"They (Ministry of National Security) have a good record notwithstanding the challenges of resources. They have a pretty good system worked out and they have a very good rate in terms of who are protected on the programme, but we have several people who need to go on the programme," Llewellyn said.

The DPP, who was accompanied by her deputies and other members of her staff, said while she was well aware that "competing challenges and interests" were the deciding factor in how resources are to be allocated, the programme clearly needed more fiscal support.

"They (security officials) are trying, but because of the need for more capacity, it needs more resources," the DPP said, adding that "some witnesses have refused to go on the programme because they do not believe it will properly replicate the comfort of their environment".

"When I was dealing with the Zeeks (reputed former Matthews Lane don) matter, none of the witnesses wanted to go on the witness protection programme... Subsequently, I understood why, but they refused point-blank," Llewellyn said, noting that being on the programme was a voluntary exercise.

"Some people don't like it because they have to leave their entire families, so sometimes we have to use moral suasion and sometimes work with the police to try and encourage persons (whose lives are threatened) to keep hope alive," she told Observer editors and reporters.

Senior Deputy Director and Head of the Human Rights, Intellectual Property and Sexual Offences Unit in the DPP's office Lisa Palmer-Hamilton went on to note that there were legitimate reasons for witnesses refusing to go on the programme.

"For example, they may have several family members. (In) one particular instance, this person had 10 persons in their family who would have had to be relocated and the programme could not accomodate that," she said.

"Witness intimidation is a big problem. I believe that if we were able to tighten some of the systems that operate in the witness protection programme, I believe we would be able to go much further with having successful prosecutions in trafficking in persons (cases)," Palmer-Hamilton pointed out.

In February this year, chairman of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica's Standing Committee on National Security Lieutenant Commander George Overton said the much-touted Witness Protection Programme has been failing some Jamaicans because of certain biases.

"There is a lot of talk about the Witness Protection Programme. I don't think any of us are really privy to the depths of it, but in truth and in fact, it seems to have selective functioning," Overton had told editors and reporters at the weekly Observer Monday Exchange.

He further claimed that there are criminal matters which are treated with urgency where persons involved will be given the protection that they need, while there are other matters that are equally important where witnesses are not given the same treatment.

Overton was one of several members of the PSOJ's leadership who shared the contents of the entity's 2010 position paper on national security with the Observer.

Chairman of Crime Stop Peter John Thwaites, who is also a member of the PSOJ, in noting the concerns of his colleague with respect to the Witness Protection Programme, said the measures could be made even more effective if efforts were fast-tracked to complete the amendments to the Evidence Act to allow testimony by video link.

Their comments came several weeks after Police Commissioner Owen Ellington chastised members of the constabulary for their handling of witnesses under the Witness Protection Programme.

"It has been observed that the procedures and guidelines governing the operations of the Witness Protection Programme, as set out in the previous publication, are not being properly followed. This has resulted in delays in the processing of witnesses waiting to be placed on the programme as well as to the programme itself," Ellington said at the time.

He went further to remind divisional commanders that applications for the programme must be delivered by hand to the Justice Support Unit of the Criminal Investigation Branch by the divisions' crime officers and warned of repercussions should the constabulary not improve its management of the programme.

The programme was introduced in November 2001 to offer protection or assistance to witnesses whose lives come under threat before, during, or after a trial.

Witnesses to major crimes are placed in safe locations, sometimes overseas, with fictitious names if police investigators determine that they are at risk of being killed or intimidated by defendants or their associates.

Read more: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/DPP-laments-lack-of-resources-for-witness-protection_9026572#ixzz1ZS4BIPde

Stay Connected