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Interference with witnesses

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The administration of justice relies upon the willingness of witnesses to engage with the legal process, and to do so in a forthright and truthful manner. The protection of witnesses from deleterious influences is therefore vital. Such problems have become, however, a regular malady of the administration of justice. The intimidation and victimisation of witnesses have become commonplace. That sections of the media are willing to engage in ‘cheque-book journalism’ to elicit details on newsworthy investigations and trials has also become an unavoidable truth. The application of the law of contempt to these problems of interference with witnesses are considered in the first two parts of this chapter. In the third section the statutory alternatives to contempt proceedings introduced under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 and latterly the Criminal Justice and Police 2001 Act are addressed. In the final section, the regulation of the payment of witnesses by journalists undertaken by the Press Complaints Commission and its counterparts in the broadcasting sector are considered.

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