MPs approve register for sex offenders
A sex offenders register will be set up in Bermuda after legislation was passed in the House of Assembly last night.
Opposition MPs welcomed the legal change but raised concerns about how few of the recommendations from a Joint Select Committee report on a register had been adopted.
Scott Pearman, the shadow legal affairs minister, congratulated Kim Wilson, the health minister, who presented the Bill in the House, but said that only two of 14 JSC recommendations had been taken up.
He added: “One, it was supposed to be public — which it is not.”
Mr Pearman was speaking as the The Criminal Code (Sex Offender Management) Amendment Act was passed with no objections.
The new register will only be available to the appropriate authorities.
Some members of the JSC, including Zane DeSilva, the Minister of Tourism and Transport, had recommended that the register should be open to the public.
Mr Pearman also said offenders should be categorised in tiers so those who were guilty of lesser offences such as voyeurism and indecent exposure would not be classified alongside paedophiles.
Sylvan Richards, the home affairs shadow minister, added that there was “potential stigmatisation” if someone was convicted of urinating in a bush or going skinny dipping.
Ms Wilson said: “Granted, there were 14 recommendations that came from the JSC. However, and notwithstanding the enormous amount of work that this committee did produce, we also have to recognise that the policy development by the Attorney-General and her chambers started way before the JSC committee submitted their report.”
The new law included a $10,000 fine for unlawful disclosure of register information.
Mr Pearman highlighted that the maximum fine for an offender who failed to comply with the requirements of the Offender Management Team was only $3,000.
He said: “It doesn't seem right or common sensible.”
Mr Pearman added that Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General, should consider increasing the penalty for failure to comply to $10,000 so it was at least on a par with disclosure.
Craig Cannonier, the Leader of the Opposition, who sat on the JSC, said that training from child protection charity Scars that he and other members had completed had emphasised that paedophiles could not be cured.
Mr Cannonier said: “Once he has done his term, whether he does his courses or not, he will not be rehabilitated.
“It is important that we tighten up every loophole we have.”
The Act also made it compulsory for sex offenders to have treatment before they were eligible for early release.
Tinée Furbert, a government backbencher and an occupational therapist, said: “They say it takes three months to break a habit. We're not talking about a habit, we are talking about a lifestyle and behaviour.
“That takes longer than three months. So, I'd like clarity.”
Ms Wilson said that if an offender refused treatment, they would lose their eligibility for parole and early release.
But Mr Pearman suggested sanctions should be applied such as extended sentences.
Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, Shadow Minister for Health, asked if adequate resources were available for the treatment of sex offenders.
Ms Wilson said: “There are adequate probation officers and the team will have the requisite support.”
Mr DeSilva said the new law was “the thin end of the wedge” and that he hoped more of the JSC recommendations would be adopted in the future.
He added: “Paedophiles don't get any sympathy from me — none. The victims are penalised for the rest of their life.
“If I had my way, paedophiles would have an electronic monitoring device for life.
“I want to make a loud, singing, ringing, thumping note to paedophiles of this country.
“We are not going to stand for it. We are going to have the tools in place to deal with you if you abuse our children.”