Judge dismisses ‘anonymous witness’ appeal

New law needs regulations, he adds

A
Summary Court order that allows a witness to give evidence anonymously will
stand, according to a ruling by Grand Court Justice Charles Quin.

The
judge said he lacked jurisdiction to hear an appeal on the matter and suggested
that regulations be introduced to give effect to the new anonymity law.

Since
the Criminal Evidence (Witness Anonymity) Law was promulgated in March,
“…there are neither regulations nor guidelines,” Justice Quin said. “It is
unfortunate that when the complex and novel legislation was enacted, no accompanying
regulations were made…”

He
urged the Crown to review guidelines and rules from various UK authorities and
then introduce local regulations.

The
issue arose after three defence attorneys’ appealed two orders by Chief
Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale earlier this month that allowed witnesses to
give evidence under conditions designed to protect their identity. Nicola Moore
presented the bulk of the appeal, with Lee Freeman and Ben Tonner adopting her
arguments.

“I
do accept it is appropriate in a climate of fear to have anonymous witnesses,”
Ms Moore said in her appeal. “I am not saying it’s not a good law; I’m saying
it’s been applied wholly inappropriately.”

She
also noted that the problem with the case she was arguing was the lack of
guidelines and regulation for the legislation

“That
has led to the order being made in a wrongful manner,” she argued.

Crown
Counsel Kirsty-Ann Gunn responded, in part, that the Grand Court did not have
the jurisdiction to hear the appeal at this point.

She
also addressed the question of disclosure, saying full disclosure had been made
to the court when the witness anonymity order was applied for.

In
his ruling, Justice Quin agreed with the defence attorneys that the Witness
Anonymity Law is silent as to whether there can be an appeal when the
magistrate makes an order. However, this omission cannot be said to be accidental,
he pointed out, because the same law specifically gives the right to appeal
when a magistrate refuses to make an order.

The
legislature did address the issue of appeal, albeit in limited circumstances,
he said.

Further,
the law specifically states that the magistrate may discharge, vary or further
vary an order. “The legislation has provided for an in-built power of the
Summary Court to reconsider the order without the need for an appeal to the
Grand Court,” Justice Quin noted.

He
also agreed with Mrs. Gunn that the right to appeal an order of the Summary
Court applies only to final orders, not orders made while the matter is
ongoing.

The
Criminal Evidence (witness anonymity) Law was passed by the Legislative
Assembly on 1 March, with Royal Assent given on 12 March.

0
0

1 COMMENT

  1. I was aware that this bill was being proposed, but somewhere along the way I missed out on it being passed. If someone in judicial can explain to me how an accused now gets the right to address the witness, when the witness is anonymous, I would be most appreciative. The anonymity means that justice has now flew out the window. And we can all be assured that there will be "anonymous witnesses" who have their own agenda against an accused. Let’s not bother to pretend that this will never happen.

    An alternative to this law is police protection which is being providing very effectively right now.

    I remember a letter to this newspaper sometime ago, in which it was warned that this law would make us a laughing stock of the democratic community. Well, it’s begun.

    0

    0

Comments are closed.