The Cayman Islands law governing witness protection in criminal cases will have to be redrafted before it is put into effect, Attorney General Samuel Bulgin confirmed Tuesday.
Mr. Bulgin said some confusion arose over the issue in the wake of a Human Rights Commission report that indicated the Justice Protection Bill, 2008, which was passed by the Legislative Assembly, had not been assented to by successive governors.
The bill had indeed received gubernatorial assent in late 2008, but due to the structure of the legislation, it could not be put into force, Mr. Bulgin said.
The Human Rights Commission raised concerns surrounding Cayman’s witness protection rules, or lack thereof, in a recent report to the Legislative Assembly.
“The Human Rights Commission brought to the attention of [former] Governor Taylor the grave concern that, whilst the [witness protection] program is operational, it has no statutory basis,” the HRC report noted. “The HRC has again addressed these concerns in writing to Governor [Helen] Kilpatrick.”
Mr. Bulgin said the delay in implementing the legislation since 2008 was largely because the initial bill was supposed to be “harmonized” with the other British Overseas Territories. In other words, law enforcement agencies in Caribbean and Atlantic territories like the British Virgin Islands, Bermuda, Antigua, and the Turks and Caicos Islands would partner with Cayman to affect various witness protection regimes.
During debate on the initial bill during 2008, Mr. Bulgin said it would be helpful to use other British territories as locations to assist in protecting witnesses needed for criminal cases.
As it came closer to time for an agreement to be put in place, the attorney general said other territories expressed reservations about the cost of such a program.
“We never really had any consensus,” he said Tuesday.
The new Justice Protection Bill was already in the process of being revised with “a view to making it more domestic oriented,” the attorney general confirmed.
The HRC report to the Legislative Assembly stated that the appropriate witness protection legislation was needed to “create a legal framework that increases protection, assistance and support services for victims and other witnesses of criminal and civil matters in the Cayman Islands.”
Although it was not pointed out in the HRC evaluation, the Caymanian Compass is aware of at least one situation involving a witness protection case that was of concern to United Kingdom prisons inspectors who visited the territory in 2012-2013.
The U.K. study reported some horrifying revelations regarding the holding facilities used prior to arrested individuals entering the court system. One of the issues with the holding cells identified problems with a protected witness.
“At the time of the inspection, there was a protected witness being held [in a separate area to the main George Town police station custody cells], who had been in isolation for over a month,” the U.K. report read. “The door to his cell was left open so that he could also use the corridor, but his cell and corridor were dark with no natural light.
“He had no way of telling what time of day it was, had not been outside for several weeks and was clearly depressed.”
Mr. Bulgin declined to comment on that specific case.