Criminal Evidence (Witness Anonymity) Act 2008
The Criminal Evidence Act 2008 (c. 15) was an Act
Act of Parliament
An Act of Parliament is a statute enacted as primary legislation by a national or sub-national parliament. In the Republic of Ireland the term Act of the Oireachtas is used, and in the United States the term Act of Congress is used.In Commonwealth countries, the term is used both in a narrow...

 of the Parliament
A parliament is a legislature, especially in those countries whose system of government is based on the Westminster system modeled after that of the United Kingdom. The name is derived from the French , the action of parler : a parlement is a discussion. The term came to mean a meeting at which...

 of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

. It was a piece of emergency legislation and was introduced by the Secretary of State for Justice, Jack Straw
Jack Straw
Jack Straw , British politician.Jack Straw may also refer to:* Jack Straw , English* "Jack Straw" , 1971 song by the Grateful Dead* Jack Straw by W...

, in order to overturn the judgement of the House of Lords
Judicial functions of the House of Lords
The House of Lords, in addition to having a legislative function, historically also had a judicial function. It functioned as a court of first instance for the trials of peers, for impeachment cases, and as a court of last resort within the United Kingdom. In the latter case the House's...

 in R v Davis
R v Davis
R v Davis [2008] UKHL 36 is a decision of the United Kingdom House of Lords which considered the permissibility of allowing witnesses to give evidence anonymously. In 2002 two men were shot and killed at a party, allegedly by the defendant, Ian Davis. He was extradited from the United States and...

and permit the use of anonymous witnesses in criminal trials in special circumstances.


The Act abolished the existing common law
Common law
Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action...

 rules on anonymity of witnesses and replaced them with a framework in which witness anonymity orders would be granted by the Court on the application of the prosecutor or defendant. Section 2 of the Act set out the terms which could be included in such orders, such as withholding of identity, protection from certain types of questioning, and also authorises visual screening of the witness from the defendant (but not from the judge, jury or any interpreter required by the witness). Section 4 set out the conditions which had to be satisfied before an anonymity order could be made; they were
  • A: That the order is necessary to protect the witness, prevent serious damage to property or real harm to the public interest;
  • B: That the provisions of the order are consistent with the defendant receiving a fair trial; and
  • C: The interests of justice require that it is important that the witness testifies, and that the witness would not testify if the order were not made.

The Act contained a sunset clause which stated that the Act would expire on 31 December 2009 (although Parliament could authorise extensions of 12 months at a time). This was because of the emergency nature of the bill, and because Parliament was already expected to debate a new criminal justice bill before the Act expired, in which further attention was to be given to the law on anonymous witnesses.

The Act was replaced by sections 86 to 97 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009
Coroners and Justice Act 2009
-External links:*, as amended from the National Archives.*, as originally enacted from the National Archives.* to the Coroners and Justice Act 2009....

. Section 96 repealed most of the 2008 Act. These sections came into force on 1 January 2010.


Geoffrey Robertson
Geoffrey Robertson
Geoffrey Ronald Robertson QC is an Australian-born human rights lawyer, academic, author and broadcaster. He holds dual Australian and British citizenship....

, QC
Queen's Counsel
Queen's Counsel , known as King's Counsel during the reign of a male sovereign, are lawyers appointed by letters patent to be one of Her [or His] Majesty's Counsel learned in the law...

 argued that the Act was a "perjurer's
Perjury, also known as forswearing, is the willful act of swearing a false oath or affirmation to tell the truth, whether spoken or in writing, concerning matters material to a judicial proceeding. That is, the witness falsely promises to tell the truth about matters which affect the outcome of the...

 charter," describing the proposed changes as "the most serious single assault on liberty in memory." He wrote He further argued that Jack Straw
Jack Straw
Jack Straw , British politician.Jack Straw may also refer to:* Jack Straw , English* "Jack Straw" , 1971 song by the Grateful Dead* Jack Straw by W...

's statement that the Bill conformed with the European Convention on Human Rights
European Convention on Human Rights
The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms is an international treaty to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms in Europe. Drafted in 1950 by the then newly formed Council of Europe, the convention entered into force on 3 September 1953...

 was incorrect:

Legislative history

R v Davis was decided by the House of Lords on 18 June 2008. The bill to overturn the Lords' judgement was introduced by Justice Secretary Jack Straw
Jack Straw
Jack Straw , British politician.Jack Straw may also refer to:* Jack Straw , English* "Jack Straw" , 1971 song by the Grateful Dead* Jack Straw by W...

 on 4 July 2008. The bill received its third reading in the House of Commons
British House of Commons
The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which also comprises the Sovereign and the House of Lords . Both Commons and Lords meet in the Palace of Westminster. The Commons is a democratically elected body, consisting of 650 members , who are known as Members...

 on 8 July and a third reading in the House of Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

 on 15 July. On 16 July, the Commons approved the Lords Amendments. The bill became effective upon royal assent
Royal Assent
The granting of royal assent refers to the method by which any constitutional monarch formally approves and promulgates an act of his or her nation's parliament, thus making it a law...

, which it received on 21 July.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.