Wednesday 23 October, 2019

History made as law for National Sex Offender Register passed

History was made in Trinidad and Tobago after legislation providing for a National Sex Offender Register was unanimously passed in the House of Representatives on Friday night.

The Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was passed without amendment with 28 for, none against and no abstentions. 

Attorney General  Faris Al-Rawi said the purpose of the legislation is to provide more protections for children against crimes of sexual abuse.

“Call it what you will, the evidence is that abuse happens across Trinidad and Tobago. If we can’t identify what is wrong with our society…we are spinning the proverbial top in the mud. That’s why our laws for many years have not had the bite they ought to have,” he said, during his presentation in Parliament on Friday.

Al-Rawi said data compiled by the Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago between 2015-2018 showed that over 80 percent of child sex abuse reports involved girls, as compared to around 15 percent for boys.

He said there were reports of sexual abuse against babies from as young 0-11 months, and as much as 21 percent of reports involved children under the age of 14.

“A child not even one year old, 0.4 percent (of reports gathered),” he said.

He also referred to the delay in court matters involving sexual assault cases.

“(For) A victim of rape…statistical demonstration shows here that we have people waiting…for their matters for over 14 years…visiting the court, month after month…to be violated all over again…the matters don’t go fast enough,” he said.

The Bill outlines for the provision of a National Sexual Offender Register (for offenders over 18), however the names on this list would only be made available to the public via a court order.

The Bill was previously passed unanimously in the Senate.

For more information on the Bill see here: https://bit.ly/2lNFJCz

 

10 things to know about the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2019:

1. Creation of a National Sex Offender Register

Clause 10 of the Bill will allow for the creation of a National Sex Offender Register and the amendment of the notification requirements for registered sex offenders.

The National Sex Offender Register is established under new Section 47.

The Clause applies to sex offenders who are T&T nationals or residents who were convicted of a sexual offence in or outside the country on or before September 25, 2000 and who completed their sentence before commencement of this part or did not complete their sentence before commencement of this part, or is convicted of a registrable offence by a Court within or outside of Trinidad and Tobago on or after commencement of this part.

The Bill does not apply to child offenders, who are protected under the Children Act.

The Bill also allows for the officers to record information of each registered sex offender including photographs, fingerprints, and DNA samples (Section 54).

 

2. Names on the National Sex Offender Register can be viewed by the public (with a court order)

Under Section 49, registered sex offenders can be listed on a public register, provided a court order has been issued.

S49(4) - Where a Court makes an order under subsection (1) requiring a person to register as a registered sex offender, the Court shall state— (a) the duration of the reporting period; (b) the frequency of the reporting; and (c) whether or not the information on the sex offender shall be published on the website referred to in section 48.

Where the Court determines that the information referred to in subsection (2)(a) on the sex offender shall be published on the website in accordance with section 49(4)(c), the Registrar shall forward the name of the sex offender to the Commissioner of Police who shall publish the information.

 

3. CoP to manage National Sex Offender Register website

Under Section 48(1) The Commissioner of Police shall establish a website designated for the publication of the information referred to in subsection (2)(a) in relation to a registered sex offender referred to in subsection (3).

The website will contain information relating to a registered sex offender including their name, former names and aliases, date of birth, photograph, main address or secondary address, convictions of registrable offences committed by the registered sex offender, including the date of each conviction. 

 

4. Compensation for passing on sexually transmitted infections

Sections 37 of the Bill allows for a person charged with a sexual offence to be medically examined for an STI (sexually transmitted infection) - with or without their consent (HIV is included in the list).

According to Section 44, if an examination shows the victim contracted an STI from the accused, then the accused, upon conviction, can be ordered to pay compensation to the virtual complainant or their representative.

 

5. CoP to be notified of sex offenders released from psychiatric hospitals/prisons

Under Section 52, the Commissioner of Police must be informed in writing no later than four months before the discharge of a sex offender by the by the Commissioner of Prisons in the case of a prison or the psychiatric hospital director in the case of a psychiatric hospital, of the date of discharge of the sex offender from the prison or psychiatric hospital.

 

6. Sex offenders to report to the police 

Any sex offenders released from prison must report to the nearest police station of his main or secondary address within seven days of his discharge from prison or psychiatric hospital when convicted by a court in Trinidad and Tobago, or within seven days after discharge from prison.

If the offender was deported to T&T, he must report within seven days of his arrival in the country, or within 48 hours after being convicted by a court of law. 

 

7. Chief Immigration Officer to notify police of returning T&T sex offenders convicted abroad 

Under Section 51(1) where a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago or a resident does an act in a country outside Trinidad and Tobago which, if it were done in Trinidad and Tobago, would constitute a registrable offence under this Act, he shall be required to comply with the provisions of this Part on entry into Trinidad and Tobago.

The Chief Immigration Officer shall inform the Commissioner of Police of the name and secondary address of any sex offender referred to in subsection (1), within forty-eight hours of the entry of the sex offender into Trinidad and Tobago.

Additionally, under Section 59, any registered sex offenders travelling abroad must report to the police station nearest to his secondary or main address, details on his trip/s and provide a copy of his travel itinerary. 

 

8. Sex offenders must notify police of changes in address

Under Section 57 if there is a change of any information initially provided by the registered sex offender then he shall report to the nearest police station and provide a designated officer with such information of the change within 14 days after the occurrence of the change and shall provide documentary evidence of the change.

 

9. $150,000 fine, 15 years in jail for not complying

Under Section 54(10), a sex offender who does not report to the police station, or comply with the request of the designated officer without reasonable excuse, commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a $150,000 fine and 15 years jail time.

 

10. Names can be expunged from National Sex Offender Register

Section 63 provides that a registered sex offender may upon the completion of his reporting period or based on any compelling reasons apply to the Court to have the information contained in the Register relating to him expunged.

 

(Editor's note: The information under '10 things to know about the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2019' has been updated to reflect the latest version of the Bill, available here: https://bit.ly/2lNFJCz)

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