Witness fact file
l Bermuda has a Witness Care Unit and a Justice Protection Programme.
Witness Care Unit is run by the Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP). Its role is to give witnesses in criminal trials a point of contact regarding their case, regular progress reports, practical help and advice on getting to court, advice on court proceedings and referrals to other helping agencies, where necessary.
l It should be able to provide a physical safe room for vulnerable witnesses to attend and wait in outside court and, where necessary, should escort the witness from there to the courtroom.
Justice Protection Programme was established under the Justice Protection Act 2010 and is overseen by two organisations: the
Justice Protection Administration Centre within the DPP's office and the police-led
Justice Protection Investigative and Protective Agency.
l The programme is for witnesses in criminal and, occasionally, civil trials, who need protection for their own safety, rather than just advice and assistance.
l Witnesses can be relocated overseas as part of the programme or receive protection from police on the Island.
l The programme began on April 1 this year but several key witnesses in gang crimes had previously been relocated overseas, including Andrew Laws and Edwin Darrell, who gave evidence in the murder trial of Middletown gang member Antonio Myers. Myers was convicted of killing Kumi Harford in March.
l Criminal charges which could require witness protection include arson, drug offences, firearms offences, hijacking, murder and serious assault, money laundering, domestic violence offences, piracy, sexual offences, terrorism.
l The Centre determines whether a witness needs protection and can provide a safe house, on the recommendation of the Agency, which carries out threat and risk assessments.
l Participants sign a memorandum of understanding with the Centre, detailing the terms and conditions of their involvement. They must agree to have their criminal record checked, as well as medical, psychological and psychiatric evaluations.
l If a new identity is necessary for a participant, the Centre can provide documents, as well as financial help to cover relocation, reasonable living expenses for the person and their family and other assistance.
l Bermuda has provisions to enter into an agreement with the following territories for relocation purposes: Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Cayman, Montserrat and Turks and Caicos. Participants can be sent to other jurisdictions as well.
l The programme prompted a 283 percent rise in the Ministry of Justice's travel budget for this fiscal year. A total of $318,000 was allocated to travel expenses for the year beginning April 1, 2011, compared to just $83,000 for the previous fiscal year. Attorney General Michael Scott said the travel items were related to the justice protection programme. He did not give an exact cost for the programme but said it would be split between several different departments, including the police.
l The Justice Protection Act states that the Centre's register of participants shall be accorded a security classification not below “top secret”. The legislation lists the Centre as the only approved authority to have access to the register unless it deems it to be in the interests of justice to allow access to another approved authority.
l Participants themselves need written approval from the Centre to disclose their former identity to anyone else.
l Protection can be terminated if a participant breaches the terms of the memorandum of understanding, gives false information to the Centre or no longer needs protection.
l It is a criminal offence to disclose information about the identity or location of a programme participant or any details that could compromise their safety. Anyone convicted of such an offence is liable to a maximum fine of $100,000 or a maximum jail term of 15 years.
l Useful websites: www.dpp.gov.bm, www.bps.bm, www.bermudalaws.bm.