by Benjamin E. Flowers
The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has proposed a way forward to solve the problem of witnesses who refuse to testify because of fear. So far this year seven murder trials have ended in acquitals because witnesses are refusing to testify.
DPP Cheryl Lynn Vidal told The Reporter that the first proposal advocates new legislation that will put measures in place to validate a witness’ statement, even if that witness recants his or her earlier testimony.
The second proposal, Vidal explained, is the formation of a new victim-care unit.
She said that in terms of giving aid to witnesses, the Commissioner of Police has agreed to assign officers to the DPPs’ office to receive special training in assisting witnesses prior to and during trial.
These officers will “liaise with the witnesses, giving them updates and making them comfortable with the whole trial process.”
Vidal also said a considerable amount of blame goes around when a conviction is not secured, particularly to the DPP’s office, but the amount of work put in by the police, the courts, and the DPP’s office is seldom acknowledged.
The hours spent preparing for the case are all rendered in vain when key witnesses force acquittals, Vidal said.
There have been 17 murder trials ending in an acquittal since the beginning of this year, and seven of them have been due to key witnesses refusing to testify, recanting earlier statements, or simply claiming to have forgotten the details of the event in question.
Four of the seven recantations occurred duringthe month of July.