A joint condemnation
Recent child-grooming legislative changes were a huge success for child safeguarding in Bermuda. To read two weeks later, a front-page article, calling for reduced sentencing for someone who sexually abused a 13-year-old child is hard to reconcile. As a community, we have started the shift to a stronger, more protective space for children. This is owing in part to the fierce advocacy of organisations such as Saving Children and Revealing Secrets, the Centre Against Abuse, the Coalition for the Protection of Children, Family Centre and the Inter-Agency Committee for Children and Families advocating for the protection of children. Additionally, the Attorney-General has listened to calls for stronger safeguarding and responded by tabling amendments to existing legislation to protect children against sexual grooming. We hope the community not only disagree with Charles Richardson’s argument but that they continue to rally behind the need for the most stringent child-safeguarding measures. We believe the offender Chez Rogers must face the legal consequence for his behaviours. However, the IAC equally advocates for restorative justice. To that end, we must continue to find ways to ensure individuals such as Mr Rogers receive rehabilitative and supportive programmes while incarcerated to ensure they are reintegrated into the community equipped with the skills, tools and resources to assist them with making healthier choices to minimise harmful risks to children and to themselves. — Inter-Agency Committee for Children and Families’ Advocacy CommitteeThe July 11 Royal Gazette article titled “Young women seduce older men for sport” raises significant red flags. First, we must be clear that children are not young adults; 13-year-olds are children. The grooming of children for sexual purposes through the internet and related technologies is a growing problem worldwide, putting countless children at risk for sexual abuse and exploitation. Grooming is the process by which an adult establishes or builds a relationship with a child, either in person or through the use of the internet and related technologies, to facilitate online or offline sexual contact with the child. Children must not be held criminally liable for involvement with adult, online-grooming offenders. Children are simply not good decision-makers in emotionally charged situations; they lose the ability to make proper, informed decisions in their own best interests when their thinking is compromised by the process of sexual grooming. It is absolutely the adult’s responsibility to ensure that they know the real age of a person that they are engaging in sexual contact with.Children must not be held criminally liable for any involvement with online-grooming offenders. A child who is exploited in an online-grooming situation is a victim. Criminal liability must focus instead on the acts of the offender, who is taking advantage of the child’s vulnerability, inexperience or life situation, and who is responsible for the child’s exploitation. If we fail to protect children, then we risk our future and deceive our own values and beliefs as a society to safeguard the most vulnerable among us. — Family Centre• Nicola Paugh, PhD, is the Programme Co-ordinator for the Inter-Agency Committee for Children and Families. Sandy De Silva, PhD, is the executive director of Family Centre• On occasion The Royal Gazette may decide to not allow comments on a story that we deem might inflame sensitivities. As we are legally liable for any libellous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.