Recently appointed Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Kim Hollis, QC has called for legislation that would expand anonymity services for witnesses in the Territory, particularly those testifying in drug related cases.
DPP Hollis explained that the Territory already has legislation on the books to protect witnesses, but she opined that the time has come for an extension to include other groups of witnesses.
In order to supplement the availability of Special Measures within the local courts, the DPP proposed that specific legislation be introduced in relation to Witness Anonymity in Criminal Proceedings, which she suggested should be introduced as a new statutory special measure.
“In order to combat the continual growth of serious crime I have proposed, and hope that it will be swiftly enacted, some important legislative changes are in order to give the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Courts effective tools in relation to trials where witnesses are either vulnerable or in need of special protection.”
The proposed legislation would enable anonymity orders to be made to protect the identity and thus the safety of any witness who may otherwise be in fear or distressed about giving evidence. “Although all-encompassing as far as offences are concerned, in particular it would assist in the successful prosecution of drug related or gang crime and has had a marked effect in the United Kingdom,” the DPP noted.
Hollis reiterated that the Territory already has provision to allow witnesses to give their evidence by video link, which is the preferred method of dealing with witnesses in sexual offences. However, she noted that it is her intent to extend special measures applications to include other serious offences.
“The act allows for a witness whose evidence is likely to be diminished by reason of ‘fear’ or distress to be screened from the accused and the public while giving evidence. There have been few applications and indeed the power has not been used since 2011. In the future more applications will be made by the prosecution to screen a vulnerable or intimidated witness from the Court.”
The DPP also asked that the Juries Act be implemented as a matter of urgency.
Specialist Prosecution System
The new DPP disclosed that since taking office she has noted some of the goals outlined by previous DPP Wayne Rajbansie and has been keeping with those aspirations as well as implementing some new measures.
“I have implemented a number of changes in relation to the consideration, prosecution and management of the most serious range of offences with which we have to deal. Under my administration we now have teams of specialist prosecutors within the office who will develop expertise in their chosen field and see a case from its inception to conclusion thus ensuring both continuity and confidence as far as the public are concerned,” she announced.
Hollis further pointed out that the implementation of the specialist prosecution system will ensure that police officers know who to contact for specialist advice. These specialist teams will include, murder and gang/drug crime, sexual offences, people trafficking and cross jurisdictional work and financial crime namely fraud, asset forfeiture and confiscation.
“From the end of this month not only will I ensure continual professional development within my office but additionally Advocacy Training Exercises will take place on a regular basis following the training methods used by the Inns of Court,” she added.