A wake up call for witness protection……

Today’s news that Coroner and QC Karon Monaghan  has called for a review of the the UK’s witness protection services has been a long time coming and is long overdue. If nothing else, Hoods , illustrated just what happens when there is no continuity or depth in the witness protection framework to deal with the real threats that organised crime poses to those ordinary people who speak out against its pernicious reach. It is a tragedy of appalling proportions that it has taken the brutal deaths of two pensioners to reach this stage but as is so often the case, it takes something of that nature to shake us out of the complacency that had been allowed to build up over this area of policing. Joan and John Stirland really did deserve better treatment and there will be individuals and corporate entitities who will never be able to wash the blood from their hands over the Stirlands deaths. There is no doubt in my mind that consideration must be given to a national body set up to deal with witness protection which is independent of local police forces and this should be a fully funded body which can deal with the huge expense and strain on resources which witness protection inevitably creates. As matters currently stand there are people who would be willing to turn their lives upside down and give evidence against major criminals if they had faith in the system. There is very little faith in the current system and the deaths of the Stirlands has magnified that lack of faith. Nobody wants to see the spectre of criminal trials collapsing against the some of the most dangerous villains simply because witnesses do not feel safe but that has become an increasingly common situation in the UK. It will be interesting to see the responses of ACPO and local police forces to this issue, but the Ministry of Justice and the Crown Prosecution also need to have an input into this debate. We saw on the streets of Nottingham how urban terrorism, threats and fear have taken their toll on some of the city’s population and unless we have the systems in place to reassure those who need our protection, it will be a story coming to a city near you soon.

Author: Carl Fellstrom

I am a journalist, author and broadcaster covering crime and justice issues

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