A new CCTV camera has been installed outside Bristol Crown Court as one of a range of measures introduced to help prevent witness and juror intimidation.
The camera, funded by the Safer Bristol Partnership and Avon and Somerset Police, has been put in place following research that suggests although intimidation is rare, it does happen.
Inspector Simon Wilstead and DC Sarah Lewis led the police research. DI Wilstead said; “It is hard to establish the extent of the problem, as we have to rely heavily on anecdotal evidence. However, we know that, particularly in high profile cases, it has and does occur. The purpose of the measures we are introducing is to take all the steps we can to prevent it and ensure justice is always done.
“Although witnesses and jurors receive special guidance and support throughout the process, they are vulnerable to defendants trying to influence them. As well as the risk of criminals walking free and victims and their families not getting the justice they deserve, the witnesses and jurors themselves could find themselves in Contempt of Court, a criminal offence that carries a maximum two-year prison sentence.”
As well as the installation of new CCTV, posters are being displayed in and around the court, including in local cafes and sandwich bars and transport links reminding witnesses and jurors of what to do if they are approached to change their evidence or verdict. Sugar packets carrying the same message have even been placed in the jury’s deliberation room.
Inspector Wilstead said; “We’re looking to keep getting the message across to people that if they are ever approached, they must tell someone, whether a police officer, a court usher, your Witness Care Unit representative or the charity Crimestoppers.”
Rick Palmer, service director of the Safer Bristol Partnership said; “Safeguarding witnesses from intimidation is vital to ensure an effective criminal justice system. Funding this camera is one of a number of measures we are putting in place to ensure they can speak out without fear.”
Measures have also been introduced to improve how the police investigation teams, prosecution teams, HMCS staff and court managers work together to identify higher risk cases and address potential threats.
Safer Bristol website