Office For Witness Protection
Making it safe to stand up
The Office for Witness Protection (OWP) is tasked with ensuring the safety of witnesses whose testimony has resulted in threats to them, family, or property. Only witnesses who do provide evidence of a crime and/or testify in court are afforded protection.
The highly confidential operations of the OWP are administered by the NPA but is housed in the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJ&CD), with its own Director-General (DG) as the accounting officer.
The reach of OWP operations is international and allows the office to co-operate and offer protection to witnesses from other jurisdictions and co-operating witnesses of special courts and tribunals.
This international co-operation has given the OWP insight into international best practice and has meant the transformation, modernization and redesign of South Africa’s witness protection programme which has led to the enhancement of the criminal justice system.
Established and bound by the Witness Protection Act 112 of 1998 which called for:
- The establishment of an Office for the protection of witnesses and regulates the powers, functions, and duties of the Director: Office for Witness Protection.
- Provision of temporary protection pending placement under protection of witnesses and related people.
- The amendment of the Criminal Procedures Act, 1977 to provide in-court services for witnesses and for the provision of services to witnesses and related people.
Roles and Responsibilities
The OWP manages the safety of witnesses and their immediate family pre-, during and post-trial. Assistance can include the creation of new identities, documentation, housing basic living expenses. These services assist to improve the justice system by giving witnesses the opportunity to create new lives and avoid being detected and hurt by people they have testified against.
The OWP is responsible for:
- the safety of witnesses who have been identified and assessed by investigating officers and prosecutors.
- to ensure the safety of witnesses so they can testify without fear of intimidation or injury.