The new provisions for the Electronic Tagging of Reluctant Witnesses in the Criminal Procedure (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill have been latched onto by the media and some civil liberties pundits
e.g. the BBC report Witness tagging plan revealed
Criminal Procedure (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill
The media and the pundits seem to be asking the wrong questions again.
Electronic tagging is being proposed as an alternative bail condition i.e. an alternative to being locked up in a police cell or prison, for Reluctant Witnesses who have had a warrant issued against them.
Why exactly do people become Reluctant Witnesses ? If they already refuse to turn up at a High Court hearing where thay can already be jailed or fined for contempt of court, why would they appear in court if they have been Electronically Tagged ? How will Electronically Tagging a witness protect them from intimidation or threats or prevent bribery ?
The real question that should be addressed is - where are the safeguards to prevent the arrest and detention of witnesses i.e. people not directly accused of a crime, simply on the say so of the prosecution or even the defence in a court case ?
What is there to prevent the abuses evident in the United States after September 11th 2001, where the families, friends or aquaintances of al-Quaeda suspects were arrested, interrogated and held in secret as "material witnesses" yet were never accused of direct involvement in terrorism ?
Submit your views and evidence on this Bill to the Justice 1 Committee by 28 November 2003 :
Clerk to the Justice 1 Committee,
George IV Bridge,
Edinburgh EH99 1SP.