One of the island’s most senior law enforcement officials is calling for witness protection legislation and the establishment of safe houses to prevent accused criminals from tampering with witnesses.
Acting Commissioner of Police Oral Williams this morning told the opening of the first annual conference and workshop of the Department of Public Prosecutions at the Accra Beach Hotel & Spa in Christ Church that there were instances where people were seeking to influence cases by threatening or harming potential witnesses and law enforcement and judicial officials.
And the time had come, he said, for the authorities to act to protect vulnerable witnesses and the integrity of the process.
“I believe the system has not addressed this and similar areas, given what has been happening and is likely to continue. And I am referring to the enactment of appropriate legislation to deal with persons who directly or indirectly seek to influence witnesses, potential witnesses, law enforcement officers or court officials by way of threats or injury,” he said.
Williams said while there were Barbadians still willing to tell the police what they hear and see, many were reluctant to provide written statements or to testify in court, a suggestion that they feared repercussions.
“This needs to be remedied with serious administrative and criminal sanctions to follow. Any programme that is put in place must go beyond the disposal of the case. It is my belief that there is a case for witness protection legislation in Barbados and in, or for appropriate cases, the provision for safe houses with appropriate rules and regulations in place,” the Acting Commissioner of Police recommended.
Williams was reinforcing the views expressed earlier at the same event by Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson who admitted that lawmen were several steps behind the criminals.
“We really need to up our game because the criminals are ahead of us. We have all the different things to do during the day . . . they have 24 hours to sit down and try to circumvent everything that we are trying to do,” Sir Marston said, while addressing the theme, Strengthening Our Capacity To Combat Cybercrimes And Other Organized Crimes.
With a strong focus on the use of technology to commit crimes, the lawmen acknowledged the need to strengthen capacity of all the institutions and agencies involved in fighting crime.
Similar sentiments were expressed by United States Ambassador to Barbados Linda Taglialatela, who suggested that the criminal justice system must respond and adapt to contemporary issues such as cybercrime, terrorism and drug trafficking.
“These areas have one commonality which can be used to aid not only investigators, but also the entire judiciary in combating these crimes. That commonality is digital forensics. We hope that with the recent opening of the Regional Security System digital forensics lab, more cases from Barbados and the Caribbean will be prosecuted and assets recovered,” the US diplomat said.