PRISON officers are afraid to testify in court, where their names and addresses are released to a suspect’s defence attorneys, Prison Deputy Commissioner Dane Clarke told a Senate Committee yesterday.
“This brings a lot of fear,” Clarke added. He asked for measures for officers to give evidence anonymously.
Asked by committee member Anthony Vieira if this was a very real fear, Clarke said, “Continuously.”
He lamented that many prison officers have been killed in recent times and that they face threats in their role of disciplining inmates.
Justice of the Peace Association vice president Don Asgarali shared his concerns from having conducted identification parades, plus confrontations where a witness identifies a suspect in a setting such as a fast-food restaurant.
At one identification parade, a witness glanced briefly at the nine-man line-up and quickly said the perpetrator was not there.
“I could tell he was afraid,” Asgarali related.
Committee member Saddam Hosein considered the other side of the coin, saying the proposed device of a witness anonymity order could be abused by people throwing wild accusations, without later being subject to cross-examination.
Legal Aid Authority director Gilbert Peterson, SC, said the question of how to examine an anonymous witness of known bad character needed more discussion.
The Senate Special Select Committee on the Evidence Bill 2019 was chaired by Clarence Rambharat.