Sex offenders’ registry on the horizon, may be before Parliament by July, AG says

Attorney General Steadroy ‘Cutie’ Benjamin. (file photo)
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By Latrishka Thomas

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With a growing number of sexual offences making their way through the courts, it is imperative that a sex offender registry be established as a tool for public safety.

And as promised last year, residents will soon know when a sex offender moves into their neighbourhood.

“We are hoping to take that to parliament some time before or during the month of July,” Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Steadroy Benjamin told Observer.

The number of sexual predators is increasing day by day, especially those who prey on children.

This has caused a massive upset in the public domain but residents are not the only ones concerned.

“We are very concerned with increased matters of sexual offences involving minor children, both male and female, and we are going to look at it seriously and take appropriate actions to address these disturbing developments in our society.

“This is a trend noted not only in Antigua and Barbuda but around the Caribbean in general. We are going to look at it to stamp it out as best as we can,” Benjamin stated.

He also shared that a system has been set up within the country to have sexual offense matters dealt with in quick time.

“The whole purpose of our model Sexual Offenses Court is to do exactly what’s happening at the moment; that all complaints in sexual matters are being dealt with expeditiously. In fact, what we are hoping is that all sexual offenses are dealt within the period 18 months,” he explained.

Benjamin also noted the public’s uneasiness where the matter of sentencing is concerned. However, the Public Safety Minister iterated those penalties are given based on sentencing guidelines used across the OECS region.

Furthermore, he said: Sentencing really is a matter for the judge. The judge hears all the facts, he or she [evaluates] the circumstances and then passes what in the court’s opinion is an appropriate sentence.

“If in fact a sentence is passed and Director of Public Prosecution is not pleased, he can always appeal against the sentencing through the Court of Appeal.”

Meanwhile, Benjamin disclosed that additional forms of rehabilitation for sex offenders are being sought after.

“We notice that most of these offenses are committed by persons known to the family…we have to look at the psychological aspect of this matter as well and I am working very closely with the Ministry of Social Transformation to develop policies, professional advice to look at the minds of these individuals who get involved in these outrageous matters,” he concluded.

One of the most disturbing sexual matters the public is aware of is that where an 18-year-old raped his five-year-old niece.

The now 21-year-old is awaiting sentencing in the High Court for the crime which he admitted to.

His sentence will be handed down later this month.

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