Log In

Reset Password

MPs back sex offender register

JSC report: Renée Ming (File photograph)

There are “monsters” living in Bermuda, MPs have been warned.

The grim caution came as the House of Assembly debated whether the island needed a public register of sex offenders.

Renée Ming, who headed a bipartisan Joint Select Committee on the management of sex offenders, said: “We have to accept that we have people in our community that will hurt.

“Child sex abuse is undoubtedly an uncomfortable and difficult topic to discuss.

“However, we realise that as we move forward, and as we progress, we have to be comfortable revealing the secrets.”

The committee recommended the introduction of a public sex offender registry in Bermuda with individuals categorised in line with the seriousness of their offence.

The JSC report also called for mandatory treatment for sex offenders, and proposed that effective counselling and support is provided to all victims and their families, regardless of financial means.

The recommendations were discussed during a debate in the House of Assembly on Friday and were approved unanimously.

Ms Ming, a Progressive Labour Party backbencher, said there was no “magic wand” to fix the problem of child sex abuse.

However, she added: “Through education and awareness we can reduce or eliminate that which has the potential to destroy families.”

She said the impact on committee members because of their work on the report would be permanent.

She added: “There are some parts of us that will never, ever, be the same.”

Ms Ming said that some of what had been discussed and analysed had been “highly emotional, and in some cases horrific”.

She continued: “But we are still standing here today, and I believe that we are proud of what we have put forward.”

Zane DeSilva, a PLP MP, said: “It’s very important that we know, in this House, in this country, and I don’t think anybody’s going to disagree with me, it’s an adult’s responsibility to protect our children.”

He said everyone was responsible, whether they were in Parliament, a parent or other family member, a coach or a teacher.

Craig Cannonier, of the One Bermuda Alliance and a committee member, said: “This is a pretty sobering subject. Sobering for me because it became very clear that for many Bermudians, and I would daresay the majority of Bermudians ... we have stuck our heads in the sand on this matter.”

He continued: “We have monsters on this island who are preying on our young women, girls and our young men, boys.

“Preying on them and, because we are a small community and I daresay much of why a lot of the incidences are not reported, is because of the fact that we know who the perpetrators are.

“The families know, the churches know, the schools know.”

He added: “What we found out being on this committee is it’s scary, just outright scary, that we have these kinds of monsters in the numbers that we do, right here on our beautiful shores called Bermuda.”

Tinée Furbert, a PLP MP, said the consequences of sex abuse were far-reaching.

She added: “Criminal behaviour affects a community, not just one person, and hurt people, hurt people.

“Once someone is sexually violated, they don’t know if they should tell somebody because of the fear of being reprimanded.

“They’re led down a cycle or road of secrecy. You question whether or not it was your fault, you’re scared, you’re confused, feel alone, unprotected and you feel unsafe.

“It affects your relations with others and with yourself and some may question even their sexual identity.”

Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the Shadow Minister of Home Affairs, said that, in the case of an adult sexually abusing a child, nobody would want to “stand in the way” of a public register because they wanted to “protect the perpetrator”.

She added: “It’s the child, the victim, that needs the protection and we, as a responsible society, have an obligation to ensure that our society is protected.”

Christopher Famous, a PLP committee member, fought back tears as he told MPs: “It’s just as important as balancing the budget, diversifying the economy, tackling racism and getting our education system sorted out.

“We have to get this sorted out because if we haven’t, we have failed our people.”