Bill passed for monitoring of sex offenders
The Centre Against Abuse has praised legislation that ensures the monitoring of sex offenders after their release from prison.
However, the charity said she hoped there would be a provision to notify victims of any appeals, probations or parole hearings.
Laurie Shiell-Smith, the centre’s executive director, said yesterday: “Early notification of a victim can assist them with establishing a plan on how they can proceed with their life. The CAA believes this inclusion in the Bill allows victims to exercise their rights to seek services and professional resources to assist them as needed.
“Often, victims learn about the release of their sex offender after they have been released through family, friends, media, or even through the misfortune of bumping into them.”
Ms Shiell-Smith added that the charity looked forward to working with the Attorney-General’s Chambers for any future amendments to legislation on domestic abuse or sexual assault to ensure that the voice of the victim is represented. The Criminal Code (Sex Offender Management) Amendment Act 2018, approved by the Senate on Wednesday, introduced measures intended to monitor and manage sex offenders.
It requires those convicted of sexual offences to complete rehabilitation programmes before they can become eligible for early release.
Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General, said regular assessments would be carried out on the probationer by the Offender Risk Management Team, along with police, Court Services and the Department of Corrections to “recommend psychological evaluations or updated risk assessments as needed”.
She said: “Appropriate measures are implemented to ensure that offenders recognise and understand the harm they inflict. Studies have shown this is vital to end the cycle.
“Programming to this end will begin while offenders are incarcerated and continue with an extensive supervisory regime in the community.”
Ms Simmons said the issue is an emotive one and there had been a great deal of discussion about whether the Government should make the registry public.
She told the Senate public registers in other jurisdictions had “driven offenders underground”, making it more difficult to monitor and manage them.
Ms Simmons explained: “A public sector sex offender register is uncommon due to vigilante justice and other factors that limit the ability for offenders to reintegrate into society.
“There is significant empirical evidence and research that shows that a publicly accessible sex offenders registry does not help to reduce recidivism rates, nor does it assist offenders to successfully reintegrate into society or make communities safer.”
She said that while the public would not be able to access the register, the ministry would release information publicly when it was appropriate.
Ms Simmons said victims would also be informed of the release of offenders and information would be shared with schools and other groups that work with children.
The amendments will create a sex offenders registry within the Ministry of Legal Affairs, but it would not be public or subject to Pati requests.
The legislation garnered positive response from all senators, although many said more work could still be done.
Jason Hayward, a PLP senator, said the legislation was a step forward, but said there needed to be greater education and awareness about sex offenders.
He recalled an incident that happened several years ago when his sons went to a restroom at a cricket game. When the boys returned, one told him that a man had tried to convince him to go into a stall. Mr Hayward said: “I bring this up because, number one, I don’t know what I would have done if something had happened to my boy, and number two, I would have realised it was all my fault.
“I should have been the one to escort my son to the bathroom rather than be preoccupied with the game, and not his twin brother.
“It’s a role that we all have to play. I don’t share that story lightly, but the Government is trying its best to put a team in place to monitor the situation.”
Nick Kempe, One Bermuda Alliance senator, argued that there are situations in which a public sex offenders registry would help protect the public.
He said that informing schools about offenders would not assist in all cases, giving the example of those who knowingly spread sexually transmitted diseases.
Mr Kempe also added that there was still more work to be done to address “gender-biased” legislation.
The amendments received broad support overall from senators from both political parties.
James Jardine and Michelle Simmons, independent senators, said the amendments were long overdue and would make a “huge difference”.
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