We must do better readmitting child sex offenders to prevent trail of destruction
Whether it is from the third sector, parent community or concerned citizens, the public outcry for an improvement in sex-offender management is clear.
The sad truth is that rehabilitation, psychological evaluations and therapy are neither mandated nor guaranteed before a release date. With that in mind, we must implement a multipronged approach for convicted paedophiles so that further victimisation is prevented. Bermuda cannot turn a blind eye to the harsh reality that there are predators among us. Continuing to allow certain individuals the freedom to find an opportunity to reoffend is at the expense of our children.
The implementation of enhanced sex-offender management should include the following:
• Improve the tracking and supervising of offenders re-entering society. Mandated probation sentences and extended parole terms for sex offenders who have committed crimes against children is integral for preventing further harm. Supervision allows the justice system the best means to maintain control over offenders and monitor their residency, while requiring them to participate in ongoing treatment. Electronic monitoring devices are utilised to track the whereabouts of sex offenders in other jurisdictions, and this should be general practice here
• Exclusion zones and restrictions must be clearly established. Individuals who have been convicted of these serious crimes should not be permitted to work with or be around children indefinitely. There should be a certain distance they live away from schools, with no loitering around children allowed. Residing in a household with children should also be strictly prohibited. There should be no intentional engagement with children
• Bail provisions related to sex offenders must be reviewed. At present, a sex offender can be allowed bail. By contrast, English law provides for, in the English Criminal Procedure Rules, and section 81 of the Senior Courts Act 1981 that there shall be no bail for a person who in any proceedings has been charged with or convicted of an offence to which section 81 applies. In summary, section 81 includes sexual offences against a minor. It is the Coalition for the Protection of Children’s opinion that the starting place should be that a person charged with or convicted of a sexual offence should not be given bail. It is then for the court to be satisfied, on the balance of the information presented, whether to depart from this standard position
• Implement a clear procedure whereby, before release, victims and their families are notified that the offender/perpetrator is re-entering society. The general population should also be aware of the threat. Protecting the rights of a convicted offender over those of our children should no longer be in question.
• Sentencing guidelines should be reassessed to better reflect the seriousness of this crime against children
In instances where a person is a proven, repeat sex offender, and the risk to public safety is clear, alternative arrangements need to be established. This could be in the form of a prisoner-exchange programme where particularly dangerous individuals are sent to jurisdictions with the capacity to ensure exclusion zones and restrictions. Bermuda is too small to effectively restrict the movement of a motivated predator.
One child victim is too many, but when people are given the ability to continue to prey on vulnerable, young people, it is guaranteed to leave a trail of destruction. This is unacceptable and, clearly, we must re-examine how we effectively address this issue.
• Kelly Hunt is the executive director of the Coalition for the Protection of Children