BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – IN a positive effort to allay some people’s fear of reprisals when giving evidence in court, the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis is currently contemplating on implementing a Witness Protection Programme.
This disclosure was made last week by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security, Osmond Petty, while on the Team Unity Administration’s ‘Working For You’ programme aired by ZIZ.
“Witness protection is a major consideration across the region, I just came from the RSS program and we had a paper, which I will be sharing shortly with the relevant authorities,” Petty said.
He however pointed out that there is a cost to the programme, and not that “one would not want to spend the money, but there are a lot of other issues involved in witness protection”.
He continued: “The region is going to have to deal with this problem of safeguarding witnesses because we have the problem here and other countries have the problem, and it’s a collaborative effort.”
The PS noted that witness protection involves the entire family.
“What I can say about witness protection is that we have witness X who has a family, so you have to carry both witness X and their family. They have to go to school, so it’s not a case of taking out one person. All who are associated with that witness have to be protected.”
He however informed that several measures have to be in place before the Witness Protection Programme could become a reality in the twin-island Federation,.
In a recent interview on Freedom FM, former Commissioner of Police Austin Williams said that during his tenure in the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force, he had always advocated for a Witness Protection Programme.
He declared that a system of protection was initiated in the past and that he wanted a special place to house witnesses, but it never came to fruition.
“I know we have done it in the past. In doing so, we ended up sending people overseas, and that was expensive. We had also kept persons at the police station, but it almost turned out that the person is in prison as well. I had advocated for building out an area at the Defence Force Camp. I think that might have worked, but it has never come through...but it is very important.”
In the past, a large number of witnesses had refused to turn up in court to give evidence.
This media house had interviewed scores of people on this subject, and many of them had declared that they preferred to remain mum, especially in giving evidence against gang members.
The former Commissioner of Police also spoke to this trend.
“We have lost many cases due to the fact that get taken out or are afraid to come forward. So witness protection is very important; it is a critical component of crime fighting.”