ADDRESS BY THE DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS KIM HOLLIS Q.C.
AT THE SPECIAL SITTING OF THE SUPREME COURT TO MARK THE OPENING OF THE 2016 – 2017 LAW YEAR OF THE EASTERN CARIBBEAN SUPREME COURT
May it please you my lords, Your Excellency, Mr. John S Duncan OBE, Governor of the British Virgin Islands.
Permit me to adopt the protocol already established by those who came before me in these proceedings.
As you know this is my first address to this Honourable Court since taking up the appointment of Director of Public Prosecutions on 29 August, 2016 and may I start by assuring everyone that I regard it as an honour and a privilege to have been appointed and been given the opportunity to serve the British Virgin Islands and its people.
I know there are high expectations of me and I hope that I will not disappoint.
Since taking up office I have been hard at work and in keeping with the aspirations of the previous holder of this office 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.
Police officers will also know who to contact for specialist advice.
The Specialist teams include, murder and gang/drug crime, sexual offences, people trafficking and cross jurisdictional work andfinancial crime namely fraud, asset forfeiture and confiscation.
In conjunction with the above and 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 in order to give the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Courts effective toolsin relation to trials where witnesses are either vulnerable or in need of special protection.
We already have provision to allow witnesses to give their evidence by video link, which is the preferred method of dealing with witnesses in sexual offences.
However I intend 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 powerhas 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.
Additionally in order to supplement the availability of Special Measures within our courts, I have proposed thatspecific legislation be introduced in relation to Witness Anonymity in Criminal Proceedings which should be introduced as a new statutory special measure.
As stated by the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales Lord Judge in 2008 when setting down guidelines as to the interpretation of the Statutory conditions contained in The Criminal Evidence (Witness Anonymity) Act, 2008
“There is a degree of unreality in submissions that witness relocation would normally provide a practicable alternative to an anonymity order, as by definition witnesses would be cut off from all their roots , and have to start completely new lives as would their spouses or partners and children . The interference with the life of any such citizen would be tumultuous and would effectively penalize him from doing his duty as a citizen “
The Act would enable anonymity orders to be made in order 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 successfully prosecution of drug related or gang crime and has had a marked effect in the United Kingdom.
Finally my Lords, Your Excellency in relation to legislation I humbly request as a matter of urgency the implementation of the Juries Act.
My Lords ,Your Excellency, I am anxious that the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions of the British Virgin Islands is a world class organization and held up in the future as a model to be followed. 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 .
The Annual Report for 2015 from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has been forwarded to the House of Assembly.
Within it lists the 5 key strategic goals set in 2012 including Developing Team DPP, this vital goal has been at the forefront of my work thus far in the short time I have already been in office and will continue throughout the forthcoming legal year, in the words of Lord Bingham
“There are fine aspirations, but aspiration without action is sterile. It is deeds that matter. We are enjoined to be doers of the word and not hearers only, it is on the rule of law that the quality of government depends”
I am obliged to have been given the privilege to address you today, as I have already stated I regard it as a great honour to be your Director of Public Prosecutions and I wish the court and all counsel a productive law year.
May it so please your Lordships and Your Excellency.