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Witness protection scheme gets $300,000

A total of $300,000 has been pumped into Bermuda's new witness protection programme for the next financial year, Minister of Justice Michael Scott announced.

That's despite the Ministry overall suffering a 12 percent funding cut compared to last year.

The programme came about through the Justice Protection Act 2010. In extreme cases, it will help send witnesses and victims in criminal cases overseas and give them new identities.

“The Ministry continues to respond effectively and creatively to the challenges posed by the increase in violent crime by ensuring that funding for initiatives that encourage witness participation in the prosecution process is maintained,” said Mr Scott.

“Thus, funding is allocated in fiscal year 2011/12 for the continued operation of the witness care unit and new funding provided for the operation of the justice protection programme, which will facilitate witness protection.”

Meanwhile, he said that funding of $119,884 has been allocated for the witness care unit which was established in 2008 and is the single point of contact for all civilian victims and witnesses involved in criminal cases.

It provides support when they come to court to give evidence, takes them on visits to familiarise them with the courtroom layout and keeps them updated on cases.

It can also help with referring victims and witnesses to external professional agencies. It is managed by a senior Crown counsel and staffed by two witness care officers.

Mr Scott said: “Since the inception of the witness care unit in December 2008 the unit has provided assistance and care to over 1,000 victims and witnesses.

“The unit continues to receive positive feedback from members of the public who were either victims and / or witnesses in a criminal trial.”

The Department of Public Prosecutions handled 1,076 criminal cases in the Magistrates' Court during 2010. There were 50 cases disposed of in the Supreme Court and 62 new cases filed.

Mr Scott also announced that $308,000 has been allocated to complete a video-conferencing system for Bermuda's courtrooms.

“This system will reduce the necessity for court appearances by witnesses and defendants and will result in cost savings and a reduction in witness intimidation,” he said.

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Published March 10, 2011 at 9:07 am (Updated March 10, 2011 at 9:07 am)

Witness protection scheme gets $300,000

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