It is almost one month since the UNC internal elections and it is about time that the matter involving Marlene Coudray and her surreptitious move from one party to the next be placed on the back burner so that we can focus on other pots that appear to be boiling over. In no way am I suggesting that the Coudray affair was given undue prominence. In fact, it enabled the public to see the true colours of those who hold themselves as paragons of virtue and the difficulty faced by the leader of a coalition when stakeholders allege unfair treatment. Obviously, Coudray’s decision to remain firmly planted as the mayor of San Fernando while she currently holds high office in the UNC is a clear violation of the agreement amongst the Partnership leaders in 2010 that the responsibility of the San Fernando mayorship would rest with the COP. The ball was therefore squarely placed in the court of Coudray to do the honourable thing for the sake of holding the Partnership threads together but instead she has chosen to stand her ground and, by all appearances, she is extremely comfortable with her position. The hands of the Prime Minister are tied on this issue and as leader she can ill afford to have any member of her party hold her to ransom. The only alternative is to make some other offer to the understandably upset COP and to read the riot act to those who were well aware that the move would cause serious convulsion in the Partnership.
Dog eat dog
The news that the Dangerous Dogs Act will be proclaimed on August 1 after a 12-year delay since its passage in Parliament has sparked the debate about whether the law in its current form ought to be implemented. There have been concerns raised in several quarters that more harm than good will be caused by the provisions which place onerous financial responsibilities on owners who may be unable to comply with the law. It is believed that some frustrated owners may opt to let their dogs (deemed in law as dangerous) loose, thereby leaving the animals free to roam and cause personal injury to unsuspecting victims. In such circumstances it will be difficult to establish ownership, a key component for the successful prosecution of reckless owners. But that is not the only challenge with the act and there have been several fora in the last year during which the deficiencies in the legislation were highlighted and recommendations made for amendments. One can only hope that the matters have been addressed and that the proclamation will not result in a disaster similar to the anti-gang legislation.
Sex offenders register
The Sexual Offences Act was amended in 2000 and provision was made for notification requirements for sex offenders. When the legislation was being debated back then, the stated intention was that an offender would be mandated in law to notify the police in the police station in the area where he lived and that a record of the relevant information about the offender would be made in a register provided for that purpose. According to the law, the person required to give notification is the person who has been sentenced for the offence. But when a convicted person is sentenced, he is incarcerated and not in a position to attend a police station in order to give the requisite notification. And in reality, even though the act provides for a convict to send written notification to the police station in his area, how many people sentenced under the act are aware of the provision? It is a criminal offence if a person fails without reasonable excuse to comply with the notifica- tion requirements.
As it stands there must be people who are supposed in law to have given notification within the statutory period of 14 days from the date of sentence and are in breach of the law. And to further complicate the issue, the applicable period for notification commences from the date of sentence, so the time period for notification may expire when the person is released from jail. In such a case there would be no notification requirement for the released prisoner, thereby defeating the entire purpose for the register. So while the debate about whether the public should have access to the register is a good thing, with powerful arguments on both sides, if the law remains in its present form, the arguments about access will be of academic value only. In the meantime, there should be a formulation of the policy that would dictate the compilation and use of the data to be recorded in the register and whether there should be a central register containing the names of all sex offenders throughout the country. Without proper guidelines in place, the State could face constitutional action and this would send the wrong message. The good news is that the legal challenges have been identified and so the drafters can begin to burn the midnight oil. As the proverb states—a stitch in time saves nine.