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Bill to allow supervision of sex offenders

Attorney-General Kathy Lynn Simmons (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Sex offenders will be unable to qualify for early release unless they complete treatment programmes while in jail, the Attorney-General said yesterday.

Kathy Lynn Simmons, who is also the Minister of Legal Affairs, added that sex offenders at present could refuse to take part in “programmes designed to address the behaviour that led to them being incarcerated”.

Ms Simmons explained: “When this Bill becomes law, sex offenders will be required to complete rehabilitative or therapeutic programmes as mandated by the court before being permitted to apply for parole, or being released from prison on their early release date.”

Ms Simmons said the Criminal Code (Sex Offenders Management) Amendment Act was “a leap forward for Bermuda” in child protection and added that it “sets up a structure to supervise, rehabilitate and monitor sex offenders during and upon release from prison”.

The Bill mandates that the Minister of Legal Affairs should be notified two months before a sex offender is released and is also given a risk assessment.

Ms Simmons said that the public would be alerted to a release, if appropriate, and that offenders would also be added to the Sex Offenders Register “for at least ten years”.

The register, if approved by Senate and backed in the House of Assembly, will not be open to the public and details will not be available through freedom of information laws.

Ms Simmons added that supervision would be provided by a probation officer “according to the level of risk posed by the offender and the need for the community’s protection”.

Regular assessments would be carried out on the probationer by the Offender Risk Management Team, along with police, Court Service and the Department of Corrections to “recommend psychological evaluations or updated risk assessments as needed”.

She said the team would also consult with “partner agencies to mitigate risks to children as deemed necessary”. Ms Simmons added: “An offender may apply to the court to reduce his time on the register on the grounds that they no longer present a risk of reoffending, and must prove their case in court. Offenders who fail to comply with requirements of the team will face a fine of $3,000, six months imprisonment or both.”

She said the Bill “ensured the community is better protected from the harm posed by individuals who prey on children”.

The release of sex offenders who refused treatment while locked up has caused controversy.

John “Chalkie” White was released from prison after he served 12 years of an 18-year sentence for sex assaults on three young boys.

White, a former police officer, was released in October 2016 without completion of any rehabilitation programmes while in Westgate prison.

Jon Brunson, chairman of Saving Children and Revealing Secrets, said when White was released that the case was a “prime example” of how a public sex offenders registry could protect people.

Mr Brunson said that White had been released without the “appropriate people being notified” and “highlighted the gaps” in Bermuda’s sex offender system.

More information on the Criminal Code (Sex Offenders Management) Amendment Act can be found online at www.gov.bm/sex-offender-fact-sheet. On occasion The Royal Gazette may decide to not allow comments on what we consider to be a controversial or contentious story. As we are legally liable for any slanderous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.