|Bermuda - an archipelago of 181 islands|
The One Bermuda Alliance MP said discussions are ongoing about the creation of a sex offenders’ registry — but cautioned about the need to differentiate between serious, prolific offenders and “Romeo and Juliet cases” involving young teenagers.
In an interview with The Royal Gazette, he said that, historically, a lot of sex offences against children happen “in what we often regard as being safe havens or in positions of trust”.
The former attorney-general continued: “They may occur with close family members or with people that are in youth organisations or even schools, which is really terrible. Whilst it is obviously such a minority of people that are involved in those types of activities, that’s where there tends to be a degree of prevalence.
“We don’t want to make it difficult for all the wonderful people that come along and give up their time to children, but unfortunately this is where the prevalence tends to be.”
The joint select committee on sex offenders was created last year to examine existing legislation surrounding a sex offenders’ registry and other matters related to convicted sex offenders.
|Mark Pettingill MP|
Mr Pettingill, a defence lawyer, said that while the idea of a registry is still on the agenda, the committee is still debating how to go about it.
“This has been a debate for some time. I have to say, I see both sides of the coin,” he said.
He said that Bermuda has the ability to produce a list contained within its criminal code, but he believes it should be at the discretion of the attorney-general.
“In my view, there are certain types of criminals that commit these things that people should just be aware of who they are because it warrants that children and society deserve the protection from that type of individual.
“At the same time you have the Romeo and Juliet cases where you have, let’s say, a 17-year-old boy who has a consensual sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl and he basically gets run in by her parents.
“I’ve seen those types of cases. Entirely consensual, but unlawful still — he’s deemed over the line and she’s still under it. Should he be put on a sexual offenders’ registry as a sexual offender? I don’t think so.”
Mr Pettingill said a balance needs to be found between who should be on the register and how much of it is publicly available, with consideration given to the circumstances of the offence and how prolific it is.
He said prolific offenders that are deemed “to have a real risk”, despite serving time in prison and undergoing treatment, should be on a public register.
“I think we can do better than what we have,” he added.
|Satellite shot of Bermuda - total land area 20.6 sq miles|
“Conceptually, we are getting there. I am hoping this year that things will be moved along. Some things are low-hanging fruit that we need to get right on.
“We want to mandate education and awareness training about anyone that is an owner, manager, employee of any organisation that deals with children.
“I’m talking about an organisation like Scars, that teaches people on what to look for, how to deal with children and all those things.”
He said he would also like to see certificates of satisfactory completion on the training.
“That would address anyone that has supervision, control or direct access to children.
“If you deal with a child, you have to have done this training to understand what the challenges are,” he said.
Mr Pettingill said that the committee is considering mandating that organisations have child protection policies in place, “so you don’t have a situation where you have one-on-one between adult supervisors and children, unless it can be something that is observable”.
The committee also wants to consider the enforcement of laws requiring mandatory reporting of these types of offences.
He said: “It might be that we’ve got to consider bolstering that law, so that for some reason you don’t have people deciding ‘oh, well, I’m going to proceed down the counselling road’ rather than immediately reporting it to the authorities.”
Child Sex Offences Laws Need Revising
Two children’s charities have thrown their weight behind Puisne Judge Carlisle Greaves’s suggestion that Parliament should consider revisiting the Island’s sexual offences laws.
|Bermuda is more than 1000 kms|
from the nearest land
He invited Parliament to consider revisiting the sexual offences laws and whether it is appropriate to increase the penalties for incest and buggery to bring them in line with those for sexual exploitation.
“Mr Justice Greaves is absolutely correct that the legislation governing sentencing for incest needs to be amended,” said Sheelagh Cooper, founder and chairwoman of the Coalition for the Protection of Children.
“We are pleased to see that he has pointed that out as it is, and always has been, a serious problem in a small community like Bermuda.”
Debi Ray-Rivers, the founder and executive director of SCARS, added: “Certainly the law makers must take some direction from the assessment of the courts in relations to offences.
|Judge Carlisle Greaves|
At the sentencing, Mr Justice Greaves noted that the maximum sentence for the sexual exploitation offence is far greater than the maximum sentence for incest, which he said is “inadequate in this jurisdiction”.
The court heard that the maximum sentence for sexual exploitation of a young person by a person in a position of trust is 25 years and seven years for incest.
Mr Justice Greaves said the penalty for sexual exploitation was amended after the infamous John White case, a former police officer who was sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment for sexually abusing three boys. White’s sentence was later reduced to 18 years by the Court of Appeal.
And while the White case “changed everything in Bermuda when it came to sexual offences, particularly those involving children”, Mr Justice Greaves said, incest and buggery laws were not amended when the penalty for sexual exploitation of a young person by a person in a position of trust was increased from 20 to 25 years.
The Royal Gazette approached Government for comment but received no response.
|Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory|
with a population of about 65,000 people more than half of whom are black