Tue | Sep 18, 2018

Protect witnesses on I.D. and court days

Published:Monday | February 23, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Tom has always been a very hard-working man. He earns his living by careful planning along with hours of sacrifice. To this end, he got out of his bed on a day and at a time when most of us are still deep in blissful slumber.

He arrived at his business establishment and began moving around equipment in preparation for the long day ahead. He was totally unaware that he had been under surveillance by a predator who blended in with the surroundings. His camouflage was simple: low-cut hair, low-lying pants with tight legs and a loose-fitting shirt. Little wonder that Tom never took notice of this 'youth' ambling in his direction.

Before Tom realised what was happening, he heard him say, "Don't move." Tom found himself staring into the business end of a pistol, so he complied. The predator demanded Tom's jewellery, he again complied. But then, without any provocation, without any warning, without another word in any language, the predator squeezed the trigger.

Tom didn't have time to say his last prayer. He had no time to review his life. He had no opportunity to say farewell to his wife and children. He couldn't think of any future ... the next fraction of a second felt like eternity.


The gun misfired and Tom instinctively sprang into action; a tussle ensued. Suffice it to say that the gunman (the wannabe killer) had a pretty bad day and ended up in jail.


The danger


Tom is not faint-hearted. Tom has a deep respect for and an abiding trust in the judicial system. He wants this dangerous criminal taken off the streets. Tom wants to play his pivotal role in getting this would-be murderer convicted. However, Tom also knows that lock-ups and prisons are not as segregating as people believe. He knows that cellular telephones are smuggled in and used by incarcerated individuals to lead criminal lives from behind bars. Tom knows that his life could be in serious jeopardy because witnesses are sometimes murdered.

Tom is not involved in a big or high-profile case. Although witnesses for all kinds of cases are sometimes murdered, he could report no overt or credible threat, so doubts that he would be a candidate for the witness protection programme. But, even if his circumstances qualified him for the programme, he doubts if he could accept since that would drastically change the lives of his entire family.

So, Tom had to call upon all his courage to do the right thing. He knew that he could be a walking target over and over again because trials get put off repeatedly for a myriad of reasons. He knew that going to court to see that justice is done will make him lose income, and, perhaps, even his life, but he did it anyway.

Jane was 'escorted' off a public transport Toyota Coaster minibus, taken to a secluded house and gang raped by five degenerate criminals. She reported her horrendous experience to the police and the main rapist was apprehended (based on her description and the location of the crime).


Threats and intimidation


She was summoned to the identification parade. As is the practice, she was to find her own way there and risk being seen by friends and/or accomplices of her attacker. To her utter dismay, just as she feared, one of his cronies intercepted her in the yard of the police station and threatened her life. She decided that seeking justice for her gang rape and seeking to protect others from a similar fate was just not worth her life.

I know several people like 'Tom' and 'Jane'. Some stick it out to the bitter end, but others bail out under the severe pressure. The very least that should be done for victims and witnesses involved in crimes of that magnitude is for them to be escorted under police guard to and from identification parades and on the trial days.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.