Issue wider than sex registry

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Former Attorney General, Dale Marshall.

Prompt responses by a wide cross section of society have led me to conclude that my position on the issue of a register of sex offenders which appeared in the Daily Nation on June 12 might have been misinterpreted, misconstrued or misrepresented. I wish therefore to state my position on the matter for the interest and benefit of all concerned.

The focus from my comments centered around a response to Acting Assistant Commissioner of Police William Yearwood’s call for introducing a sex offenders’ registry here as a means of dealing with an increase in rape cases.

First, like most Barbadians, I believe that even one sexual offence is too many. I believe that anyone who commits such a heinous act should be severely dealt with by our Law Courts. In fact, I believe that the real issue in Barbados relates to the adequate investigation and prosecution of sexual offences, and the enforcement of penalties that match the seriousness of such offences, and the damage they cause in the lives of victims and their families.

Furthermore, we all know that our problems also relate to the length of time it takes for these cases to be heard in our court system. These delays compound the victimization, as survivors must wait long periods for justice to be delivered, and for their healing to truly begin.

I also made the broader point that we cannot look at sex offenders only, but need to have discussions on how we may alert women about men who are known abusers. This call related only to a sexual offenders’ registry, and not for a wider registry of persons charged with domestic violence or other similar, very serious crimes. We know that these offences cause just as lasting damage in the way of serious injury, disfigurement and death of predominantly women.

My simple contention was that a registry may not be enough, given the nature of crimes of sexual and domestic violence plaguing Barbados. We need to do far more given the reality of what we are confronting here. I hope this clarifies what was earlier reported.

Barbadian women are plagued by a high incidence of domestic violence.

Before we look to import wholesale the measures other countries adopt to fight crime we need to adapt them to the Barbadian context. In the context of the United States, the Sexual Offenders Registry applies to sexual predators or where minors are the victim. It is especially valuable in the US given the fact that offenders can easily move to other districts or states and continue their predatory crimes as an unknown. This is less likely to be the case with Barbados.

As we address these issues and other aspects of keeping a safe and secure Barbados, we will continue to put the interests of victims and their families first, while minimizing the opportunity for injustices to be perpetrated.

I believe that rather than the initial focus on a registry, we should seek to devote resources to:

  1. Understanding the true scale of sexual and domestic violence offenses;
  2. Adequate and timely investigation and prosecution of sexual offences;
  3. Expeditious hearings in the law courts and suitable penalties and their enforcement;
  4. Survivor support and offender rehabilitation where possible; and
  5. A comprehensive approach across communities and institutions of Government to eliminating sexual and domestic violence.

 

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