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...No participant harmed under protection programme

By Joel Julien joel.julien@trinidadexpress.com

NO-ONE has ever come to any harm while under the active protection of this country’s Witness Protection Programme since its establishment in May 2003, a release posted on the Justice Ministry’s website has stated.
According to the Justice Ministry, there are some 196 people in the Witness Protection Programme, including 83 witnesses and 113 of their “familial associates”.
Stacy Roopan, 25, a State witness in a court case, was shot and killed on Monday while walking towards a preschool to pick up her son.
She had recently received death threats.
In January, another State witness, Ricaldo Sanchez, was killed after receiving threats.
Neither Roopan nor Sanchez was in this country’s Witness Protection Programme.
The Express yesterday sought to determine why State witnesses would opt not to participate in the Programme.
“Unfortunately, the ministry would be unable to comment on why a witness may opt not to participate in the programme as one would appreciate that the inputs into the decision-making processes of individuals are as wide as they are varied,” Alicia Carter-Fisher, director of communications at the Justice Ministry, stated.
Participants in the Witness Protection Programme undergo a “rigorous assessment”, the release on the Justice Ministry’s website stated.
“Entry into the Witness Protection Programme entails rigorous assessment which includes, but is not limited to, medical evaluation and psychological evaluation of the prospective participant, as well as input from law enforcement and the Director of Public Prosecutions,” the release stated.
“On admission into the Programme a memorandum of understanding is signed between the participant and the Programme that clearly lays out the obligations of both parties,” it stated.
This country’s Witness Protection Programme is managed in conformity with the Justice Protection Act 2000, the release stated.
The Justice Ministry is responsible for the management of the Witness Protection Programme.
According to the Justice Ministry’s release, this country’s Witness Protection Programme was reviewed in 2011 by an international authority.
“The international authority reported that Trinidad and Tobago’s Programme was successful in its operations, its staff was competent, and its operational systems were effective and were meeting international standards,” the Justice Ministry’s release stated.
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