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Coroners and Justice Act 2009

Section 87: Applications

461.Subsection (1) provides that applications for a witness anonymity order may be made by defendants as well as prosecutors. This reflects the position in the case of Davis, where the Court of Appeal allowed a defence witness as well as prosecution witnesses to give evidence anonymously. The Government expects that defence applications are most likely to be made in multi-handed cases (that is, where there is more than one defendant) where one defendant does not wish a witness’s identity to be known by the other defendant or defendants. But this subsection does not exclude the possibility of a defence application in a single-handed case.

462.Subsection (2) provides that, where an application for a witness anonymity order is made by the prosecutor, the identity of witnesses may be withheld from the defence before and during the making of the application. This ensures that the operation of the legislation is not impeded by procedural challenges to the power of the prosecution to withhold this information pending the court’s determination of the application for the witness anonymity order.

463.Subsection (2) therefore provides that prosecutors are under no obligation to disclose the witness’s identity to the defence at the application stage but must inform the court of the identity of the witness. Similar provision is made for the defence in subsection (3), except that the defence must always disclose the identity of the witness to the prosecutor and the court but do not have to disclose it to any other defendant.

464.In addition, subsection (4) provides that where the prosecution or the defendant proposes to make an application for a witness anonymity order, information that might identify the witness can be taken out of any relevant material which is disclosed before the application has been determined. This does not, however, override the obligation to disclose the identity of the witness to the court (in the case of a prosecution application) or to the court and prosecutor (in the case of a defence application).

465.Subsection (2) also enables the court to direct that it should not be informed of the identity of the witness. This provides for the possibility that, whilst in the vast majority of cases the court will require to be informed of the witness’s identity, there may be rare cases (particularly national security related cases) where even the court will neither need nor wish to know it.

466.Subsections (6) and (7) set out two basic principles. Subsection (6) states that on an application for a witness anonymity order every party to the proceedings must be given the opportunity to be heard. However, it may be necessary in the course of making the application to reveal some or all of the very information to which the application relates: for example, the name and address of the witness who is fearful of being identified. So subsection (7) provides that the court has the power to hear any party without a defendant or his or her legal representatives being present. This reflects the existing practice, by which prosecution applications are expected to be made in the absence of any other parties in the case, with the defence able to make representations later at a hearing with the prosecution (and possibly other defendants) present. It is expected that defence applications will be permitted without other defendants being present but will always be made in the presence of the prosecution.

467.Subsection (8) confirms that this section does not affect the power of the Criminal Procedure Rule Committee to set out further procedures relating to witness anonymity in the Criminal Procedure Rules.

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