Justice not balanced against needs of victim

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  • A question of rehabilitation: the imminent release of Jonathan Cumberbatch has reignited the conversation over whether enough is being done to protect the public in advance of sex offenders being released(Photograph supplied)

    A question of rehabilitation: the imminent release of Jonathan Cumberbatch has reignited the conversation over whether enough is being done to protect the public in advance of sex offenders being released(Photograph supplied)


The Coalition for the Protection of Children, Saving Children and Revealing Secrets, Women’s Resource Centre and the Centre Against Abuse are relieved and grateful to see that the Minister of Legal Affairs, Senator Kathy Lynn Simmons, has accepted the need to inform the public when a dangerous sexual predator is released into the community. However, we have grave concerns about the inevitability of this release.

Jonathan Cumberbatch is being released after serving eight years out of a 12-year sentence. This means that he is being given “time off” for good behaviour despite him being considered a “dangerous sex offender” and “of the highest risk to the community”.

Mr Cumberbatch remains a dangerous, predatory sex offender, who, without acknowledgement or continuing treatment, remains a very real danger to the children of our community. While we are strong supporters of restorative justice, “dangerous sex offenders” should not be given the privilege of freedom until a panel of trained professionals can assess the child sex offender and determine that they are no longer a risk to children.

We implore the Commissioner of Corrections to use the power invested in the office to remove the earned remission and hold this offender until the full expiration of his sentence.

Child sex offenders get a second chance, but their victims are not afforded the same luxury of getting their innocence back.

We note that child sex offenders go into prison after scarring a child or children. They must have their own emotional scars healed before they come out. They can come out clean on the outside with their prison outfit off, but the questions are:

Have they been cleaned on the inside?

Have their impure thoughts been exposed?

Has their pain been revealed?

We can call it mental illness, but we must also recognise it as, and call it, unaddressed pain.

We also consider it a travesty that Mr Cumberbatch was sentenced to 12 years as a repeat offender. The course and sentencing should have used the stipulation for him to be supervised based on him being a reoffender.

Also, the victim’s parents not being notified speaks to the need for a protocol to be established immediately to ensure that this does not happen again.

In 2017, the Coalition for the Protection of Children submitted proposed policy wording to all sitting Members of Parliament at that time, which included the following;

20, Sex offenders who do not take the “sex offender treatment programme” should be held in custody for the rest of their sentence

Prison rule 32(c) 2 gives the Commissioner of Corrections the power to charge an inmate with an offence for not participating in a designated treatment programme. Such an “offence” provides for loss of remission, which could take away the inmate’s “right” to unsupervised release after two thirds of his sentence.

While we are strong supporters of restorative justice, refusal to engage in rehabilitative programmes pretty much waives one’s right to leniency. We know from an abundance of research that paedophiles have no hope of returning to a normal life without long and highly specialised treatment, and that, just like addicts, they are never totally cured but require continuing therapeutic support well after release.

21, Make the identities and whereabouts of released sex offenders available to the public

Reluctance to make available to the general public the names and locations of such released untreated sexual offenders amounts to protecting them at the expense of our children. Provisions exist in law for public notification of information on sex offenders under section 329H (2) (d). The protocol may include notification to the public and identifying information, including a photograph, as the minister may determine. While we are not necessarily advocating such a level of broadcasting, it is essential that the photograph and whereabouts are available to the general public in a central location such as police headquarters.

As it stands, all of the people charged with sexual offences have their identities protected until they are found guilty — unlike any other category of offence; murder, for example. Additionally, many continue to be protected from having their names published even after conviction, if their victims are related to them.

22, Consider releasing the names of those charged with sexual crimes

We must ask why individuals charged with sexual offences are so protected when the victim cannot be identified by such publication. Indeed, this does not have to be the case. While section 329(c)(1) prevents any publication of the name of a person so charged, section 329(c)(b) makes an exception to this and allows the judge hearing the case to overrule that clause and allow publication if they believe “that it is in the public interest that the restrictions [on publication] should be removed or relaxed”.

We are not aware of any cases in Bermuda in which a judge has taken advantage of this subsection and allowed publication at the point of charge despite some horrendous cases involving the violent, sexual exploitation of children.

Magistrates and judges should be encouraged to take note of this provision unless, of course, the identity of the victim could be compromised by doing so.

23, Stop the practice of automatically releasing violent offenders after two thirds of their sentence

This practice allows dangerous offenders to avoid rehabilitation programmes and return to the community without the benefit of parole supervision. We can do this by enforcing section 32(c)2 of the Prison Rules 1980 “a prisoner shall be guilty of an offence against prison discipline if he refuses to participate in a specified training, educational or rehabilitation programme when required to do so by the commissioner”. A prisoner refusing to engage in violent offender or sexual offender treatment can suffer loss of remission and be held until full sentence has expired.

24, Expand the violent offender and anger management programmes in the prisons, using properly trained psychologists

These programmes should continue to be made mandatory before consideration is given for parole for offenders incarcerated for violent or sexual crimes.

25, Mandate post-release, violent and sexual offender treatment programmes as part of parole stipulations for offenders who fall into those categories

Notwithstanding the provisions in Recommendation 20, even if offenders are held for their full sentence, they will still be released without treatment. It follows that if they are deemed to present a continued danger to the community that they remain under supervision for the rest of their life in the community.

A message to family members of child sex offenders:

Try not to be embarrassed or ashamed. It’s not your shame. You are not responsible for the actions of your family members. We can love from afar. We can support them while holding them accountable by reminding them when they minimise or deny their actions. We can remove them from their temptations. Children cannot protect themselves; they rely on us as adults to do that.

Our community cannot hold the families of child sex offenders responsible for the choices of the sex offender — unless, of course, they supported or contributed to the actions of the offender.

The group will continue to solicit the support of the Government and community partners in an effort to protect those most vulnerable in our community.

Elaine Butterfield, the executive director of the Women’s Resource Centre, is writing also on behalf of the Coalition for the Protection of Children, Centre Against Abuse, and Saving Children and Revealing Secrets

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