Call for public’s own sex offenders register
Members of the public could start their own sex offenders register irrespective of what steps are taken by the Government, a forum has heard.
Shari-Lynn Pringle, a social activist, said someone with good computer knowledge as well as the time and ability to gather information about convictions could replicate sites used in other countries such as the US.
Ms Pringle was speaking at an open mike event on Tuesday night where about 50 people gathered to air their views on the establishment of a Bermuda sex offenders register.
The meeting was organised in the wake of a House of Assembly Joint Select Committee report on the creation of a registry last month.
Ms Pringle told the audience at the Astwood Arms restaurant on Front Street in Hamilton: “I am truly interested in a sex offenders register, I truly am interested in something that’s online that can be accessed by anybody and that the people stay on there for a good period of time.”
She added: “I don’t think that we really need Government. Government can go ahead and do whatever they feel they need to do.”
Ms Pringle highlighted the US Department of Justice’s National Sex Offender public website, which was described online as an “unprecedented public safety resource”.
The US site allows people to search using information such as name or zip code to obtain details of offenders in particular areas.
Ms Pringle said: “It’s amazing how many are out there, it just blows the mind.
“Bermuda is a smaller community but based on our size there are a lot of people walking around feeling free.”
She told The Royal Gazette after the event there was no need to wait for the Government, as someone with “computer savvy skills” could “mirror” the US site.
She added: “It would take somebody who could do some investigating of anybody who has already been convicted and is in the system now.”
The JSC report supported a tiered sexual offenders register with a mandated framework to notify the public of the release of high-risk, dangerous offenders.
Renée Ming, a Progressive Labour Party backbencher who chaired the bipartisan committee, told MPs a tribunal could be set up to review and agree terms and conditions, classification and public notification of high and low-risk offenders.
A concerned father set up a Facebook page with the names and pictures of convicted sexual offenders in 2012 because Bermuda did not have a publicly available list.
The parent pointed out at the time that he had only posted information from media reports on court proceedings.
It is thought, however, the page is now inactive.
Ms Pringle’s suggestion was backed by some people at the forum.
One said: “We’ve become such professionals at keeping the perpetrator safe that we don’t look at the victim and it has destroyed Bermuda.”
Another pointed out that a register controlled by the public, rather than the Government, could result in the names of people who were not offenders being added by vigilantes.
Several people also raised the concern that teenagers engaging in consensual intercourse with other teens below the age of consent could be criminalised or on the list for years, which would affect their futures.
Other panel members at the forum included Debi Ray-Rivers, the founder and executive director of sexual abuse prevention charity Saving Children and Revealing Secrets, and Craig Cannonier, a One Bermuda Alliance member of the JSC.
Robyn Swan, an OBA senator who hosted the talk, said she expected to see similar events in the future.
She said: “I’m very pleased with the outcome, I’m very glad to see the representation that was in the room, the amount of support. Clearly Bermuda is ready to move forward with this. We are going to continue with educating the public on this issue and to assist in creating a safe space for people to come forward with any abuse that they have suffered and to assist the process in any way we can.”