Above: the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in St Kitts
By the Caribbean Journal staff
The new Evidence Act that was passed by the St Kitts and Nevis National Assembly in September is now in effect.
The act replaced a 135-year-old Evidence Act that originated in the United Kingdom, like most pre-independence legislation in the country.
The act provides a series of new changes to the law of evidence, including a provision that determines the competence of a witness to testify, the admissibility of computer-generated business records and the admissibility of testimony from fearful witnesses who have either disappeared or passed away.
The major change was greater protection for witnesses.
When the law was passed, National Assembly Speaker Curtis Martin cited a case where a defendant charged with assassinating a police officer had orchestrated the murder of a witness in the case.
“There have been many cases where eye-witnesses have retracted their statements made at the preliminary inquiry,” he said at the time.
The new law introduces the concept of “compellability,” which determines whether, as a matter of law, a witness can be obliged to give evidence when he or she does not wish to do so.
A provision covering witness anonymity has not yet taken effect.