Tue | Jan 26, 2021

Abide by witness protection rules, attorney warns

Published:Monday | August 20, 2018 | 12:00 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
Peter Champagnie

Citizens who sign up for the witness protection programme must follow the rules set down by the experts in order to have their safety guaranteed, attorney Peter Champagnie has said.

"All in all, it is a good programme, and it ought to be encouraged. The witness-protection programme in Jamaica is one where a threatened witness, who can be harmed makes an application for protection. That protection comes under the auspices of the Ministry of National Security, and it is very safe, except for one or two instances in the past where witnesses leave the programme and were harmed afterwards.

"You must act on the advice of the personnel from the programme. If you are told not to go beyond a particular area, you should follow the advice. The allowance to do certain things or not do certain things will, of course, depend on the threat level to be determined by the experts within the programme."

Queen's Counsel Tom Tavares-Finson recently expressed concern about the circumstances under which a woman currently in the witness-protection programme was able to speak with a journalist to outline her struggles.

Tavares-Finson, however, described the system as workable, but coming with flaws.

"In theory, a lot has been done to create a system that is workable. I know sometimes that persons placed on the programme quite often do not comply with the terms of their being placed on the programme, as is the instance where the juror gave an interview to the press. That must be in breach of the terms under which she was placed on the programme.

"I certainly think that if a witness feels that their life is being threatened, then they should make use of the witness-protection programme. If one has any fear, one should take advantage of what is being offered by the state," Tavares-Finson said.