Saturday 22 February, 2020

Attorney: Where is the sex offender's list?

Attorney and social advocate Jonathan Bhagan is demanding that the government update the public regarding a national sex offender's registry. 

In a statement, Bhagan, who is Director of the Organization for Abused and Battered Individuals (OABI) and Chairman of the Caribbean Committee Against Sex Crimes, said it is unacceptable that National Security Minister Edmund Dillon said the registry would be implemented by June 2016 but almost two years later, no further information has been given.

He said Minister of National Security Edmund Dillon and the Acting Commissioner of Police must clarify the public on the status of the implementation of the police level Sex Offenders Registry, which is provided for in the Sexual Offences Act.

"Amidst the dark times facing our country, it is critical that high profile crimes do not distract from protecting our society’s most vulnerable from sex crime. Our society has become so desensitized to rape that it no longer occupies the front page unless the act is particularly heinous."

"I am calling on the Minister of National Security and the Acting Commissioner of Police to clarify to the public the status of the implementation of the police level Sex Offenders Registry provided for in the Sexual Offences Act."

Bhagan said Trinidad and Tobago already has a basic Sex Offenders Registry law in the Sexual Offences Act Ch11.28.  This was introduced by amendment in Act 31 of 2000."Sections 34B of the Sexual Offences Act Chap 11.28 provide for Sex Offenders to notify the police in the local police area of their name or names, home address and date of birth."

"Furthermore, any change of name is to be notified to the police by virtue of 34B(2) A."

"Section 34C provides that a person may give a notification requirement by attending any police station in his local police area or giving a written notification to such police station."

"In an express article dated April 1st, 2016 National Security Minister Edmund Dillon stated that full implementation of the Sex Offenders Registry across all nine police divisions will be done by June 2016."

Over 500 people have been charged with sexual offences and other crimes against children since 2015, said the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service in a February report

In February, a suspect who posed as a photographer was detained after over 20 women were allegedly raped under the pretence of a modelling shoot. Two victims are assisting police with the investigation.

Earlier this month, a Marabella man was charged with kidnapping, robbing and raping a Colombian woman who got into a taxi. 

In another incident involving a taxi, an 18-year-old woman was robbed and raped by a fellow passenger near Montrose.

In yet another incident, a Tacarigua man was recently held for numerous charges including grievous sexual assault, kidnapping, and sex with a minor.

Bhagan said he is appalled that, in light of such heinous crimes, that no one is focusing on creating a sex offender's registry. 

"I am appalled that legislation assented to on the 25th of September 2000 has taken so long to implement in a country that claims to be searching for solutions to crime."

"If crime is to be defeated a more pro-active approach to implementing policy needs to be taken. A 16-year wait to implement a policy is simply unacceptable," he said.

Bhagan cited precedents set by Prescott and Rockoff (2011) where:

“Registration may enhance the ability of police to monitor and apprehend registered sex offenders, increasing the probability of punishment ( ) for registrants—in particular, when registered offenders target neighbours because local police will be more likely to connect victims to known offenders.”

"Prescott and Rockoff also noted in the USA that registration without the use of public notification laws decreased crime. Basically a properly implemented police level sex offender registry can decrease crime on its own without it being made public."

"I am calling on the Minister of National Security and the Acting Commissioner of Police to make full disclosure on the status of the implementation of this registry," he said. 

US sex offenders to be identified on passports

He said once the Sex Offenders Registry is properly implemented Trinidad and Tobago can sign an inter-agency agreement with the United States of America to take part in the reciprocal notification as provided by the International Megan’s Law to end Child Sex Trafficking.  Essentially this will allow for the tracking of sex offenders across borders when they migrate or are deported.

He added that soon, child sex offenders in the US will be identified via their passports, however, there is no way to track these individuals once they enter Trinidad and Tobago.

"As it stands our 18-year-old Sex Offender Registry Amendment is out of date with the International Megan’s Law to End Child Sex Trafficking. In coming years the US will be stamping the passports of their child sex offenders and Trinidad and Tobago’s legislation has nothing to cover tracking these individuals when they enter our jurisdiction."

"A properly implemented sex offenders registry is one small part of the solution to reducing sex crime in Trinidad and Tobago. Other issues need to be addressed such as proper training and motivating our police service and improving victims support services to increase the reporting rate of sex crimes."

Bhagan said once clarity on the implementation of the police level sex offenders registry is achieved focus can be shifted on increasing the conviction rate of sex crimes (reported to be between 1 and 3% by some metrics), rehabilitating victims and doing the research needed to inform policy decisions. 

Bhagan said a 16-year wait for implementing this policy is unacceptable.

"Given the many challenges, law enforcement personnel face in Trinidad and Tobago special attention ought to be paid to this issue. Amidst the thousand crises, our nation is facing the monitoring of convicted sex offenders may not receive priority."

"The 16-year wait to implement this policy shows our politicians are not giving sex offender registration the priority it deserves and both the PNM and the UNC have to take the blame for this state of affairs."


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