Sticking to the script

A covert human intelligence source was placed in a witness protection scheme.

AAA v Chief Constable, Queen’s Bench Division (Julian Knowles J) [2019] EWHC 259 (QB)

Executive summary

A covert human intelligence source (‘CHIS’) was placed in a witness protection scheme. He signed a memorandum of understanding which stated that he would be provided with assistance that would be reviewed periodically. There was no binding contractual obligation to provide him with further financial assistance such as mortgage payments and assistance in obtaining a job.

Background

The claimant was a CHIS who provided evidence against a criminal, ‘X’. X was arrested and convicted, making serious and credible threats against the claimant. He was given witness protection and signed a memorandum of understanding that provided, among other things, that the police would provide him with subsistence payments, counselling and household goods. It also stated that financial support would be reviewed on a regular basis and would be paid if ‘justifiable, reasonable and proportionate.’ The claimant was required to arrange his affairs so as to minimise his need for financial assistance from the police.

The claimant alleged that officers gave additional oral assurances that were legally binding. He claimed they stated that he would be placed in as close a position as possible to the one he would have enjoyed. This included the police making mortgage payments and using their best endeavours to obtain him employment. The police denied there was any agreement beyond the memorandum of understanding.

Decision

The claimant’s evidence was found to be contradictory and implausible. It was also inconsistent with the documentary evidence, in particular the memorandum of understanding. The claimant was not a reliable witness. His claim for breach of contract was dismissed.

Comment

The case highlights the advantage of clear evidence of agreements reached with those on witness protection. The written memorandum of understanding provided clear evidence of the relationship between the parties. Although the court was sympathetic to the claimant’s situation, without reliable evidence of any further agreement, that was enough to defeat the claimant’s unconvincing claim.

For further information about Weightmans or to discuss any of the issues in this update, please contact, John Riddell, Partner on 0116 242 8925 or email john.riddell@weightmans.com.

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