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Witness law in the United Kingdom serves as a critical component of the legal system, aiming to protect the integrity of witness testimonies and ensure justice is served. Witness law defines the rights and responsibilities of witnesses, as well as the consequences for those who attempt to interfere with their testimony.

Witness law in the UK is primarily established under the Contempt of Court Act 1981 and the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, s.51(1) and s.51(2). These legislations, combined with other legislations outline the legal framework governing the conduct of witnesses and the consequences for those who seek to undermine the judicial process.

The enactment of witness laws stemmed from the recognition of the vital role witnesses play in the administration of justice. Witnesses provide crucial evidence and testimony that can make or break a case, and it is imperative that their statements are given freely and without undue influence.

Rights and Protections for Witnesses

culpability demonstrated by one or more of the following:

  • Actual or threat of violence to witnesses and/or their families.
  • Deliberately seeking out witnesses.
  • Breach of bail conditions.
  • Conduct over a sustained period of time.
  • Sophisticated and/or planned nature of conduct.

Protection from Harassment

UK law prohibits the harassment of witnesses, whether by the accused, their associates, or any other party involved in the legal proceedings. Harassment can take various forms, including verbal threats, intimidation, or unwanted communication aimed at coercing or influencing the witness.

Protection from Coercion

Witnesses are entitled to provide their testimony based solely on their own recollection and perception of events. Any attempts to coerce or pressure witnesses into providing false or misleading testimony are strictly prohibited.

Non-Contact Orders

Witnesses have the right to refuse any contact or communication with individuals involved in the case, including the accused and their associates. Non-contact orders may be issued to prevent interference with witnesses and safeguard their testimonies.

Protection from Threats

Witnesses must be safeguarded from any form of threat or intimidation intended to dissuade them from giving evidence or cooperating with the authorities. Threatening or intimidating witnesses is considered a serious offence.

Witness Intimidation – The sentencing Council

Witness Law in the UK: Safeguarding Testimonies and Punishing Interference