Witness Anonymity in the Criminal Process

Ian Dennis

in Essays in Criminal Law in Honour of Sir Gerald Gordon

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print October 2010 | ISBN: 9780748640706
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651450 | DOI:
Witness Anonymity in the Criminal Process

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This chapter deals with witness anonymity, focusing on witnesses who provide evidence adverse to a defendant in a criminal trial, but whose identity is sought to be withheld from the defendant. It attempts to answer two key questions. First, what problems do non-disclosure of a witness's identity raise for the defendant and for the criminal process generally? Second, how should these problems be resolved? What is the appropriate response to a request for anonymity? It is shown that although the problems are not difficult to identify, they raise fundamental issues about our understanding of fairness in criminal process and about the extent of a defendant's rights under article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The responses to these issues which have been given recently by the House of Lords, the European Court of Human Rights, and the Westminster Parliament are all open to criticism. It is argued that the statutory scheme for the regulation of anonymity introduced in England in 2008 comes closest to a satisfactory solution, but it needs reshaping.

Keywords: witnesses; criminal trials; witness identity; defendants; fairness; criminal process; European Convention on Human Rights

Chapter.  10957 words. 

Subjects: Criminal Law

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