(PRESS RELEASE) — On Friday the 13th September 2019 the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago unanimously passed the Sexual Offences Amendment Bill 2019 in the House of Representatives. The bill required a special majority as it was a “Special Act” that is inconsistent with the Bill of Rights as it would infringe the right to privacy of registered sex offenders.
This is a historic event as Trinidad and Tobago is now the smallest country in the world to have passed a form of public sex offender registration. Antigua’s government has made statements that they intend to pass such a law but have not yet done so.
Section 48 of the amendment provides for public access to an online sex offenders registry, the court under section 49(4)c may make an order providing for a sex offender to be published on the website established in S48. This means that public registration as a sex offender is within the discretion of the court.
The court was given the discretion to decide which offender go on the registry in order to allow due process to balance off the sex offender’s right to private and family life under the Trinidad and Tobago constitution. This was important as the law would need to survive constitutional challenges on the basis that it is not a justifiable infringement on the rights of sex offenders as per section 13 of the Constitution of T&T which provides for acts to be passed that are inconsistent with the bill of rights once the acts are reasonably justifiable in a society that has proper respect for the rights and freedoms of the individual.
The bill also provides many other groundbreaking provisions including mandatory DNA and STD testing for sex offenders and a compensation provision for victims who contract STDs from perpetrators.
Once properly implemented the Caribbean Committee Against Sex Crimes expects the presence of a public sex offenders registry to deter new sex crimes in Trinidad and Tobago.
The Caribbean Committee Against Sex crimes encourages all CARICOM member states to review this bill and consider adopting some of its provisions in order to help deter sex crime regionally. Not every state needs to go the route of a public sex offenders registry as they can choose to follow the UK and Canadian models of having a registry only accessible to the police.
However, in light of the standard set by the US International Megan’s Law which establishes the Angel Watch Center to monitor and track sex offenders entering or leaving the United States CARICOM should adopt a similar policy. The Angel Watch Center has been sending emails to CARICOM police agencies for years informing them of Sex Offenders entering their jurisdiction. Furthermore, the US is also stamping the passports of child sex offenders under this law.
CARICOM IMPACS already has a very advanced APIS system that tracks over 50 million air travellers entering the region annually. This system can be used to track sex offenders moving through the region and help crack down on child sex tourism and human trafficking-related offences.
CARICOM IMPACS, the regional security implementing agency could benefit from having every island in CARICOM adopt a sex offender’s registry so that the information can be used to track offenders moving throughout the region.
Sexual violence is a serious problem in the Caribbean region due to the violent legacy of slavery and colonialism. The Attorney General of Jamaica Mrs Malahoo Forte says it’s her information that up to 80-percent of young girls in Jamaica lose their virginity to rape or molestation.
Three of the Top Ten Rape Rates in the World Occur in the Caribbean”
Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the World Bank (2007). Crime, Violence, and Development: Trends, Costs, and Policy Options in the Caribbean.
The impact of this problem is that citizens of CARICOM are at risk, and those who are survivors of sex crime face serious mental and physical health concerns that will cost the economies of their nation-states in productivity and medical expenses. “30% of rape victims have had a major depressive episode. 13% of Rape victims have attempted suicide a rate 13 times higher than non-rape victims” (Kilpatrick et al., 1992)
1. Coordination with Universities and other stakeholders to do targeted research on regional trends with regard to Sex Crime in order to inform policy.
2. Training for immigration and customs personnel to identify the marker that convicted US child Sex Offender’s passport’s will be stamped within the near future.
3. Establishment of an amalgamated database of convicted Sex Offenders in CARICOM to be shared with IMPACS, INTERPOL and the US Angel Watch Centre in line with International Best Practice.
4. Model Legislation for police level Sex Offender registries should be standardized throughout CARICOM. Legislation should expressly stipulate provisions for international notification in line with best practice and for registration of Sex Offenders who commit crimes outside the region.
5. Standardize a policy for supporting victims of sex crime within CARICOM, identify funding for states that have no rape crisis centre for the public such as Dominica.
6. Need to standardize best practice for sex offender rehabilitation to reduce recidivism and facilitate rehabilitation regionally, Policies should cause any CARICOM national who is a registered sex offender to register with the rehabilitation centres in the respective state they may choose to migrate to.
7. Encourage nation-states to reform court systems in order to fast-track sex crime cases.
The Caribbean Committee Against Sex Crimes, an Initiative of the Zandoli International Foundation based in St. Lucia and the United States. At present, the executive members are Attorneys at law Jonathan Bhagan and Gina Maharaj and founder Camille St. Omer.