Child protection report
House: Sex offences going unreported
Convicted sex offenders should undergo mandatory treatment or spend more time behind bars, MPs heard yesterday.
The recommendation was included in a report by a Joint Select Committee on the need for a public sex offenders register and related matters.
Renée Ming, a Progressive Labour Party backbencher, who tabled the report, said “all convicted sexual offenders should be required to participate in a mandatory treatment programme prior to their release from the correctional facility”.
She added: “Treatment should not be optional. There should be consequences for those offenders who refuse treatment while incarcerated. The possibility of extended prison sentences should be considered.”
Ms Ming said the group also recommended that sex offenders should be categorised in line with the seriousness of their offence.
She added: “Convicted sex offenders who are deemed dangerous and are categorised within the top tier should be placed on the sex register for life.”
Ms Ming said the JSC, set up last year, had heard from witnesses who emphasised the need for “mandatory treatment during incarceration”.
She added: “Most of the presenters were of the view that a convicted child sex offender who has not undergone any treatment and counselling is more likely to reoffend upon release.”
Child sex abuse prevention charity Saving Children and Revealing Secrets has called for mandatory treatment for convicted sex offenders.
The Coalition for the Protection of Children, Women’s Resource Centre and the Centre Against Abuse also spoke out in support of denial of parole to prisoners who refuse to undergo treatment before the release of high-risk convicted sex offender Jonathan Cumberbatch in February.
The four charities also called for the identities and locations of released sex offenders to be made public.
They said: “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.”
Ms Ming said the JSC supported a tiered sexual offenders register with a mandated framework to notify the public of the release of high-risk, dangerous offenders.
She suggested a tribunal to review and agree terms and conditions, classification and public notification of high and low-risk sex offenders.
Ms Ming added: “Additionally, the JSC believes that the relevant governmental department should produce an ongoing campaign on sex abuse and child sex abuse.
“Education and awareness should be a constant with public service announcements and related campaigns against sex abuse. Education and awareness are key to prevention of sexual abuse.”
Recommendations for education included mandatory annual awareness campaigns and screening for those who care for or supervise children.
Additional recommendations for managing sexual offenders included an update to existing laws and the sexual offences list
The JSC said it also wanted to ensure that Bermudians convicted of sex offences overseas were placed on the Bermuda register.
The JSC also recommended counselling should be provided for victims and their families and that those affected should be given “sufficient and timely notification upon an offender’s release”.
Ms Ming pledged that committee members would ensure that the report would “not sit on the shelf after it has been discussed”.
She said: “We have worked diligently and persevered to ensure that we do our utmost to protect our children, our people. We must look forward to real change.
“The suggestions and recommendations from this report must be acted on without delay.”
Ms Ming added: “This has been truly an emotional Joint Select Committee. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the team of members that worked on this committee were professional.
“I think we all learnt a lot more than we started out knowing in December when we first started and we have worked hard.
“We’ve had differences of opinions at times but we do believe that this one topic ... we are uncomfortable talking about it but we need to be more comfortable talking about it.
“We need to create awareness, we need education, we would like to see the statistics that we currently have in this area reduced.
“We have learnt that many cases go unreported so we have many members of our public who are suffering silently.”
The report is expected to be considered at the next meeting of the House.