In an effort to improve measures of combating crime and modernising the judicial system in the territory, the Government of the Virgin Islands will be amending several dated legislations as well as introducing new bills such as the Witness Anonymity Legislation.

This was announced during the Speech from the Throne on Tuesday by His Excellency Governor John Rankin.

Among the legislation to be updated is the Police Act (CAP.165) and the Proceeds of Criminal Conduct Act, 1997.

He said, “Government will seek to amend the Police Act (CAP.165). This will bring together an updated legislative basis for policing in the Territory and provide a strong constitutional and professional base for a modernised Police Force. Supporting the proposed Act would represent a positive and measured response to the current crime and community challenges facing the Virgin Islands and provide a real opportunity for the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force to emerge as a leading police force in the region.”

“Government will move to amend the Proceeds of Criminal Conduct Act, 1997 to make provisions consistent with Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations particularly as it relates to the Civil forfeiture of proceeds of crime,” he added.

Witness Anonymity Legislation 

Governor Rankin also announced plans for the implementation of the Witness Anonymity Legislation, a bill that was first announced to the public in 2018.

Once passed and assented to, it will protect the identities of witnesses involved in certain court cases by giving the court the ability to effect a witness anonymity order to protect the safety of any witness.

“The Witness Anonymity Legislation will be brought forward to ensure the protection of witnesses and the preservation of their rights by making provisions for a court to make a witness anonymity order to protect the witness’s safety, prevent damage to property, and prevent real harm to the public interest. This would be an invaluable tool in assisting with combating serious crime. At the same time, it would also help to bolster public confidence in the criminal justice system,” Governor Rankin explained.

Amendments to Court legislation

Several amendments to legislation governing the BVI’s courts were also announced, including the Magistrate’s Code of Procedure, Chapter 44 and the Criminal Procedures Rules.

“Amendments to the Second Schedule of the Magistrate’s Code of Procedure, Chapter 44, will be brought forward to bring filing and service-related fees more in line with the fees charged in other jurisdictions and current operational costs. The current Schedule of Fees is more than 36 years old and is the lowest in the region. The fees were updated in 1985. Therefore, the current rates are not reflective of the cost of living in the Virgin Islands, nor the increased operational cost associated with a Magistracy of a higher level of functioning than yesteryears,” Rankin stated,

He added, “Similar to the Civil Procedure Rules, government will bring forward the Criminal Procedures Rules to serve a vital role in managing all criminal matters filed within the Supreme Court. This will improve upon the Criminal Procedure Code and provide a more detailed framework for the administration of justice in this area. The Criminal Procedures Rules will make provisions for filing dates and deadlines for certain matters, case management procedures, disclosure, adjournments, bail, and service of documents, among other matters.”