/ June 25, 2008

Law Lords Come to the Defense of Defendants

The Lords of Appeal in Ordinary, otherwise known as the Law Lords, came to the conclusion last week that anonymous testimonies can no longer be accepted in the courts. The judicial appeals branch of the House of Lords is of the opinion that any witness who will not publicly identify themselves has nothing relevant to share on account of the inability to question their motives for providing testimony. The Law Lords seek justice for defendants by allowing them to investigate and question their accusers prior to testimony, ensuring that anyone who testifies against them is a legitimate source of information. Some members of Parliament and other proponents of witness protection are concerned about the effect this will have on decreasing criminal action and gangs that have been on the rise in the UK.

Prior to last week’s ruling, remaining anonymous served as an incentive to those who were hesitant to testify because of connections with the accused. By concealing identities, the UK had been successful in obtaining more witnesses and convicting more criminals. With the new ruling in effect, criminals incarcerated by way of anonymous witnesses and those still on trial will essentially be given a second chance. Cases being heard presently are to be considered a mistrial and the proceedings will have to begin again sometime in the near future, this time around with the accusers in plain view of the defendant. Only those considered to be “vulnerable” can remain anonymous but this is limited mainly to children.

The Law Lords are welcoming legislation that will make changes to specify who can and cannot be protected much like the Witness Protection Program created by the US in the 1970s. The Witness Protection Program has improved the ability to stop organized crime by protecting sources who feel their lives would be in danger by providing information. The UK will be determining in the days that follow whether they would benefit from a program similar to WITSEC to keep rising gang violence to a minimum.

Source: Times Online

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