After reading the 29 March, 2010,
issue of the Caymanian Compass, I find myself in complete agreement with Mr.
Alden McLaughlin regarding the proposed Criminal Evidence (Witness Anonymity)
Bill 2010 and wish to also comment on the revised Police Bill, both of which
completely appal me.
Mr. McLaughlin states that “(the
bill) runs counter to the rights of an accused…”. In other words, the law
will violate the rights of a person accused. He further goes on to state that
“if we do not have a system that ensures a fair trial of those who come before
it… all of us are at risk of trial by police officers, not by a jury of our
In other words, we’d be on our way
to a police state. I quote the article. “The revised Police Bill… will
contain among other things legal changes that allow criminal court juries and
judges to draw ‘negative inferences’ if a suspect refuses to answer a police
officer’s questions.” Somewhere in the drafting of this bill, the Attorney General,
Solicitor General and the Legal Department (Drafting) collectively forgot one
very important inalienable legal right that we have: the right to remain
Not only is the government busy
drafting laws that that violate our human rights, but it is also busy setting
the accused up for nothing else but a guilty verdict. Basically what the law is
saying is: “you have the right to remain silent, but if you maintain that right,
you will be found guilty in the court of law”.
These laws are decreasing the
responsibility of the police department to have effective investigative procedures,
officers and also unfortunately decrease the rights of an accused. There are
not very many democratic countries left in this world that are working these
judicial principles and the vast majority of those that are, are under fire
from the inside and out to change these governances. But before I become too
critical of this new proposal, let’s consider the ramifications of such law, if
Because the law must not only be
fair but must also appear to be fair, this law would have to be drafted in such
a way that in cases of (suspected) gang related crime cases the allowance for
individuals to give anonymous evidence (not anonymous information) against an
accused person for fear of retribution from that person would also have to be extended
to the accused. He would have the same right to have his witness(es) give
anonymous evidence on his behalf for fear of retribution from the other warring
faction. Without this allowance, the law would be geared only toward securing a
guilty verdict and not a fair trial. If this is the guaranteed scenario, then
we would have a judicial system that is the laughing stock of the world.
It would also be a complete waste
of the defendant’s time and my money. At some point anonymous witnesses will be
identified simply from the details of their testimony anyway, as there will be
some evidence that only some people would have been privy to and by the element
of deduction the accused will identify the witness in short term so there
really is no protection in this law. In such a day and age when the entire
world seems to be caught up in eliminating unfair and prejudicial acts our
country is considering laws that are steering us straight in the direction from
which the world is running.
At a time when we are looking about
our new Constitution and Bill of Rights, our government is proposing laws that
violate those very doctrines. If it passed, this law in addition to the
existing urine test law, the 12-day law, which allows police to hold a suspect
in custody without evidence, the “misuse” of drugs law and the CE (WA), we are
undoubtedly on our way to becoming a police state.
Governments’ time and money should
be spent to enhance police investigative, psychological and forensic training.
However, also please remember that training is post-event: the ideal situation
is to have them trained to circumvent crime.