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NEW PROTECTIONS FOR WITNESSES DO NOT GO FAR ENOUGH, SAYS LGA

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Government measures to end the vicious cycle of witness intimidation do not go far enough, said the Local Governmen...
Government measures to end the vicious cycle of witness intimidation do not go far enough, said the Local Government Association in response to a home office report out today.

The LGA is very concerned that the government's new recommendations only offer protection to witnesses involved in criminal proceedings - when the vast majority of local authority cases against disruptive neighbours go through the civil courts.

The association has therefore urged the government to ensure that its recommendations are amended so they can be applied to civil proceedings as well. It will also be pressing for revision of the Criminal Justice Act at the earliest opportunity, to enable the offence of witness intimidation to be applied to civil cases.

Paul Jenks, LGA housing chair said: 'We must break the cycle of intimidation. Long delays in getting cases to court leave vulnerable witnesses inadequately protected, and those who are witnesses to disruptive neighbours are especially at risk because the perpetrators know where they live.

'Under the threat of abuse or physical violence many are too frightened to continue with their cases, leaving their intimidators free to abuse them and terrorise their neighbourhoods.

'Local authorities are all too often frustrated by the effects of inadequate witness protection and need to be equipped to deal effectively with these so-called neighbours from hell.

'We are already working with the Association of Chief Police Officers to produce joint guidance on witness intimidation for local authorities. However all the agencies involved - local authorities, police and court services, must work together to provide speedy and effective action in dealing with this serious problem', he said.

The LGA is pleased that the government has asked it to participate in a joint working group to help protect those considered vulnerable witnesses. The group will provide advice to care workers to help them recognise and deal with the symptoms of victimisation.

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