Witness intimidation is when an attempt is made to threaten or persuade a witness not to give evidence to the police or courts, or to give evidence in a way that is favourable to the defendant. In most cases, the offender will be the defendant or the defendantâ€™s family or friends. It is generally considered that intimidation is more likely to follow offences of violence, particularly domestic violence and vandalism.
A further form of intimidation may be thought of as ‘cultural intimidation’. This occurs where family or friends of the victim or witness try to dissuade him or her from assisting in an investigation or an inquiry. There may be a variety of reasons for this including bringing shame on the victim’s family. In addition, there may be norms of behaviour within a culture for dealing with criminal matters that do not involve the formal agencies of the criminal justice system.
Section 51 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 creates two offences:
- s.51(1) creates an offence directed at acts against a person assisting in the investigation of an offence or is a witness or potential witness or juror or potential juror whilst an investigation or trial is in progress; and
- s.51(2) creates an offence directed at acts against a person who assisted in an investigation of an offence or who was a witness or juror after an investigation or trial has been concluded.