Two law-en­force­ment and le­gal ex­perts have thrown their sup­port be­hind the idea of us­ing video-recorded state­ments to guard against wit­nesses who change their sto­ries.

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Ro­mario Scott Gleaner Writer ro­mario.scott@glean­

Government urged to use tech­nol­ogy to counter f lip-f lop­ping wit­nesses

AFORMER lawen­force­ment of­fi­cer and a prom­i­nent player in the lo­cal le­gal sys­tem have thrown their sup­port be­hind the idea of Government giv­ing se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion to the use of dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy to fa­cil­i­tate video record­ings of wit­ness state­ments to be used in court as ev­i­dence dur­ing crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings.

In the United King­dom, Sec­tion 119 of the Crim­i­nal Jus­tice Act al­lows for a pre­vi­ous state­ment of a wit­ness, who later re­cants his tes­ti­mony, to be sub­mit­ted into ev­i­dence. This as wit­nesses some­times lie or get in­tim­i­dated into chang­ing their ini­tial state­ment to the po­lice.

For­mer Deputy Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice Mark Shields and at­tor­ney-at-law K.D. Knight be­lieve that there is room for con­sid­er­a­tion of the es­tab­lish­ment of sim­i­lar pro­vi­sions in Ja­maican law.

Shields is of the view that, at the very least, sig­nif­i­cant wit­nesses, such as eye­wit­nesses, vul­ner­a­ble wit­nesses and sus­pects, should have their in­ter­views and state­ments video-recorded.

He said the Government should look at in­tro­duc­ing ded­i­cated in­ter­view suites to achieve this.

“We could have one at each di­vi­sion and, if we can­not af­ford it, we could have one at each area across the coun­try. We would have one at the Cen­tre for the In­ves­ti­ga­tion of Sex­ual Of­fences and Child Abuse, so for ev­ery sin­gle sex­ual of­fence in­ves­ti­ga­tion, ev­ery vic­tim or wit­ness gets in­ter­viewed un­der those circumstances,” he ar­gued.

Shields said it would elim­i­nate doubt from the minds of the jury as to the ve­rac­ity of the in­for­ma­tion or claim pro­vided by a wit­ness or com­plainant.

“How many times have you heard at court that a wit­ness has dis­puted the state­ment they had made to the po­lice prior and we are left to won­der whether it was po­lice cor­rup­tion or that the wit­ness has been in­tim­i­dated or brought off to change his or her state­ment?”

Ac­cord­ing to Shields, the suite would be equipped with mul­ti­ple cam­eras set at dif­fer­ent an­gles to mit­i­gate against any wit­ness or sus­pect in­tim­i­da­tion.


Knight, a for­mer min­is­ter of na­tional se­cu­rity and jus­tice, likes the idea.

He said the pro­posal should be con­sid­ered, even while ad­mit­ting that the to­tal op­er­a­tion would need “deep con­sid­er­a­tion” to pro­tect the in­tegrity of the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.

“It sounds quite in­no­va­tive, but be­fore one comes to a de­ci­sion on it, one would have to give it deeper thought,” he said, adding, “My pre­lim­i­nary in­cli­na­tion is to sup­port it.”

Knight, who is also an op­po­si­tion se­na­tor, told The Gleaner that one of the dif­fi­cul­ties that would need to be over­come is the han­dling of the tech­nol­ogy and what is pro­duced.

He said there would have to be a way in which de­fence coun­sel, the court and other in­ter­ests in a par­tic­u­lar case could ac­cess and use the pro­duce.

But Shields ex­plained that there would be three copies of the record­ing.

There would be a work­ing copy for the po­lice, a mas­ter copy for the court, and a copy for wit­nesses or sus­pects.

“The mas­ter copy would be sealed into an ex­hibit bag and that is for the court. It would mean that, even if the sus­pect, the wit­ness or the po­lice in­ter­fere with the record­ing, there would have been a mas­ter copy which the court can rely on,” he fur­ther ex­plained.

Shields, a Bri­tish na­tional who served as a deputy com­mis­sioner of po­lice while on sec­ond­ment from Scot­land Yard, said the in­ter­view suites are rel­a­tively in­ex­pen­sive, cost­ing in the range of “thou­sands of US dol­lars and not tens of thou­sands of US dol­lars per in­ter­view suite”.

But Knight pointed out that there would also be the need for some tech­nol­ogy in courts. He also ar­gued that the video record­ing would have to be ac­com­pa­nied by a tran­script.

Shields told The Gleaner he has re­fused to be­lieve that there can­not be a way to get the ball rolling in im­ple­ment­ing some of in­ter­view fa­cil­i­ties be­cause the United States, Canada, and the United King­dom have do­nated millions of dol­lars to help im­prove the ef­fi­ciency of the po­lice and the jus­tice sys­tem.



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