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Gathering against sex offender sentences

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Photograph by Jonathan Bell

Community members staged a demonstration against “inadequate” sentencing and rehabilitation for sex offenders yesterday.

The hourlong action outside the House of Assembly came two days after David Minors, a former government road safety officer, was jailed for five years for sexual offences against an underage boy.

About 50 members of the public attended the gathering, as well as a number of politicians during the House’s lunch break.

Juanae Crockwell, who led the action by the group Advocates for Change, said a five-year sentence for sex offenders was not a win for victims.

Ms Crockwell said: “I know that it is not a win when I have a friend who for the last 30 years of her life has been dealing with the effects of her trauma.

“To watch a predator get five years when she has been dealing with this for 30 years — she can’t escape it, she cant serve time and then go on with her life.”

She added: “In Bermuda, someone who gets a five-year sentence is released within three years. What happens in those three years that guarantee that when he or she is released, the community is safe?”

Ms Crockwell said the Department of Corrections did not have good enough programmes to protect the public when offenders are released.

She said she would like Parliament to introduce minimum sentences for sex crimes.

Christine DaCosta also called for tougher penalties and changes to the laws to protect children. Ms DaCosta said she was preyed on by a teacher when she was 16, but that this did not break any laws.

She said: “If your daughters and sons are between the age of 16 and 18, they are not protected by the law. It is legal for a predator to groom your child.”

Suzann Roberts-Holshouser, the former One Bermuda Alliance MP, called for a programme for released sex offenders.

Ms Roberts-Holshouser said offenders should be “given an opportunity to understand their illness and to get help for life”.

David Burt emerged from the House and said he supported the efforts of those gathered, and invited them to submit a petition to Parliament.

The Premier added: “There will be a debate upon that petition if it is submitted to Parliament, so it can get the opinion of the House, so we can look if there are any further changes and strengthening to our legislation which is necessary.”

Kathy Lynn Simmons, Minister of Legal Affairs, said she would meet with representatives of the group next week to discuss their concerns.

Wayne Caines, Minister of National Security, said preventive measures and programmes to address multigenerational trauma were needed. Mr Caines said: “We have to put processes or systems in place that allow victims or people that have been traumatised to get the proper help they need.”

He agreed that more mandatory programmes should be held in correctional facilities, but said they would only be effective if offenders are willing to get help.

Mr Caines said the church and other “safe” institutions should also be held more accountable.

Advocates for Change described the gathering as the beginning of a series of events and initiatives to bring awareness on the issue and to discuss solutions to protect the community.

The group pointed to statistics from the campaign group Scars and the Bermuda Health Council, which showed one in three Bermuda residents suffered sexual abuse before the age of 18.

It stated: “What these statistics reveal is that we have an epidemic of sexual abuse on this island and it needs to be addressed with purpose. Take a stand Bermuda.”