Criminal Evidence (Witness Anonymity) Bill
Lord Thomas of Gresford (Spokesperson in the Lords (Shadow Attorney General), Home Affairs; Liberal Democrat)
We differ on that. I give that introduction as this is an attempt to improve the Bill. Clause 4(6) states that,
"the court must have regard (in particular) to any reasonable fear on the part of the witness".
I do not understand why that should be included in subsection (6) as a consideration for the court when Clause 5 sets out a whole series of relevant considerations. It seems to me that it is preferable to take out subsection (6) and to add the heart of it to subsection (5), so that subsection (5)(b) would read,
"the witness would not testify if the order were not made by reason of a well-founded fear on the part of the witness that—
(i) the witness or other person would suffer significant injury, or
(ii) that there would be serious damage to property, if the witness were to be identified".
To use the words of the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, this would merely promote the concept of concern or fear on the part of the witness to a different position in the Bill.
One can argue about the concept of reasonable fear. I suggest to the noble and learned Baroness the Attorney-General that well-founded fear, which suggests that there is an objective basis for that fear, is perhaps a better way of expressing what we are trying to get at; that it should be a fear founded on something, not an irrational fear. I do not see any point in including death in the concept of fear. Surely it is enough if a person fears suffering significant injury, as I propose in paragraph (i) of Amendment No. 6. My purpose is to try to improve the Bill. I hope that the noble and learned Baroness will take it in that spirit.