Akash Samaroo

The Evidence (Amendment) Bill 2020, which was passed on February 12, proposes to provide for the use of different identification procedures, interviews and oral admissions and special measures evidence to be taken by video link among other things.

Despite previously voting against the Bill in the Senate citing human rights violations, the Opposition leader said her party supported the Bill in the Lower House so the Government could stop its excuses and blame game foe what Kamla Persad- Bissessar called their total inaction to protect the nation’s citizens.

The Attorney General had called the Bill “good law”, saying it will speed up the prosecution process so no one will be out on bail while having 70 charges pending against them.

So how exactly does it do that?

Confession and Admission

Currently the only way to record a confession is via writing. This proved to be a problem because while confessions are recorded via pen and paper at the investigative stage, another story is told at the trial.

Suspects sometimes say they were beaten and coerced into confessing. That now created in law what is called a ‘Voir Dire’ which is a trial within a trial and that can take as much time to sort out as the substantive trial itself. Now the Bill will allow for confessions to be video recorded in addition to the written method. In this way the suspect cannot say they were physically forced to do so and it also offers a layer of protection to the suspect themselves.

ID parade

The Bill now allows for video ID parades. This means the witness or victim does not have to be physically there for the identification process at the same time as the possible perpetrator. The suspects can be video recorded and then the victim or witness can view the footage afterwards.

CCTV footage

CCTV was already part of common law and is admissible evidence in the courts. Now the Bill proposes to “skip some loopholes” according to the Attorney General. The Bill now eliminates the need for the maker of the video to give a statement answering, who was in possession of the camera? Who maintains the camera? Was it working on that day? How did you store the footage?

Computer Evidence

Similarly, with digital evidence, the Bill eliminates the need at the trial stage for a certified computer expert to give a statement verifying that the computer was in good working condition.