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Posted: Saturday 27 April, 2024 at 6:16 PM

DPP Smith urges Witness Cooperation in serious cases

By: Staff Reporter,

    BASSETERRE, St. Kitts — DIRECTOR of Public Prosecution (DPP) Adlai Smith has called for the cooperation of witnesses in serious cases before the court, emphasizing that only with their assistance can justice be properly served.


    Smith, who has long advocated the importance of witnesses, noted that they are the "Achilles' heel" of the justice system and are often a weak point in the pursuit of justice. This was highlighted recently when a witness became hostile during cross-examination, according to a media statement from Smith.


    While the DPP remains committed to upholding the law and ensuring a fair legal system, Smith acknowledged the significant challenges his office faces in prosecuting murder and other serious cases, especially given the recent increase in violent crime in the Federation.


    The biggest challenge, according to the DPP, is uncooperative witnesses, who pose a major hurdle in bringing alleged perpetrators to justice.


    “The ramifications of uncooperative witnesses, especially in a small federation like St. Kitts and Nevis, are profound. Smith said. “Witnesses who refuse to give evidence, particularly in serious crimes like murder, create a climate of impunity whereby people will kill at will, at any place, at any time with no regard for the safety of the public. Such a state of affairs does not bode well against the backdrop of there having already been 11 murders for the year.”


    There are concerns that witnesses are scared for their safety or are being subjected to witness tampering. Smith noted that his office plans to address these concerns through a witness protection program.


    “Criminals have become emboldened by the knowledge that investigations and prosecutions are hampered by a lack of cooperation,” he said. “ If this trend remains unimpeded, ultimately many murder prosecutions may fail or have to be withdrawn in the future with the State possibly having to dole out significant sums consequent upon lawsuits brought by aggrieved accused. This has far-reaching implications for the tourism product and possibly the Federation’s Citizenship by Investment Program as a result of the further threat to national security.”


    Given these challenges, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions urges all witnesses, whether involved in current court cases or unsolved crimes, to come forward and cooperate with prosecutions and investigations. Witnesses can schedule an appointment with the DPP's office to discuss witness protection, anonymity, or other measures to ensure their safety.


    At that stage, various options can be explored in relation to witness protection or anonymity or similar measures designed to make a witness at ease. It is only through a collaborative effort can we ensure safety and justice for all," added Smith.


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