WITNESS PROTECTION ACT TO BE AMENDED; HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

WITNESS PROTECTION ACT TO BE AMENDED; HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

WITNESS PROTECTION ACT TO BE AMENDED; HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Written by Zulfick Farzan

14 Jan, 2021 | 1:05 pm

Colombo (News 1st); Sri Lanka’s Justice Ministry has decided to amend the Assistance to and Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses Act.

Legal Adviser to the Justice Minister U.R. de Silva PC speaking to News 1st said if a witness is intimidated or given a harmful reaction, it will be considered as an offense as per the ‘Assistance to and Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses Act’ and the accused or suspect can be produced to the Magistrate for committing such an offense.

He said after a suspect is granted bail under the normal law for a bailable offense, a witness can seek relief under the ‘Assistance to and Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses Act’ claiming the suspect had threatened or displayed animosity.

These events are mostly related to frowning or pointing the finger towards a witness after the accused is given bail by the Magistrate’s Court.

U. R. De Silva PC said once a charge is filed as per the provisions of the ‘Assistance to and Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses Act’, the magistrate cannot grant bail and the accused will be asked to file an application for bail with the Court of Appeal.

Noting this as an unreasonable provision, De Silva said the act will be amended for bail to be granted by the Provincial High Court, rather than moving to the Court of Appeal.

U. R. De Silva PC said the ‘Assistance to and Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses Act’ the act will not be weakened following the amendment adding granting bail should not be viewed as a punishment.

He said the Ministry of Justice will ensure witnesses are protected and upon conviction, the accused must be punished severely.

Sri Lanka still does not have a mechanism to provide new identities to witnesses who may have threats from drug lords or other serious criminals, he said adding a system will be in place to address the matter.

However, De Silva said it is proposed for Sri Lanka Police to keep drug dealers and associates under surveillance upon their release or after they are granted bail by the court, to ensure witnesses are away from their reach.

If a witness decides to take a step back from attending an identification parade citing fears to his/her own safety, provisions are available to accommodate the witness at a separate location to identify the accused, without coming into the view of many outsiders, said De Silva PC.

National Authority for The Protection of Victims and Witnesses of Crimes

The Assistance to and Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses Act, No.04 of 2015 provides for the establishment of the National Authority for the Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses in order to protect the victims of crime and witnesses.

The objective of this Act is to strengthen the course of administration of justice by identifying a proper legal framework to protect the rights of the victims of crime and witnesses.

The Authority located at No.428/11A, Denzil Kobbekaduwa Mawatha, Battaramulla.

Duties and functions of the Authority established under Section 11 of the Act may be summarized as follows:-

  • Enforcement functions – To identify, promote, protect and make aware of the rights and entitlements of the victims of crime and witnesses;

  • Quasi-judicial functions – To investigate and monitor the infringement of rights and entitlements of the victims of crime and witnesses and make recommendations to state institutions, public officers, and courts of law;

  • Operational functions – To guarantee the protection of the victims of crime and witnesses;

  • Regulatory functions – To issue guidelines and to supervise.

Under the Act, a victim and a witness of a crime may request protection from institutions undermentioned. viz.

  • The National Authority for the Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses;

  • The Victims of Crime and Witnesses Assistance and Protection Division

  • Courts of law

  • The Commissions (The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, – The Commission to Investigate Bribery or Corruptions,

  • Investigations Commissions or a Special President’s Commission of Inquiry or any other Commission appointed under the Commission of Inquiry Act.)

  • Officer-in-Charge of the Police in the area.

Access the Act here: https://www.moj.gov.lk/web/images/latest_document//2015/1480655138-a04-assistance-to-and-protection-of-victims-of-crime-and-witnesses-2015-en.pdf

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