“Please come back home,” a weeping Lydia Hinds, mother of 16-year-old Nicole Lezama, said yesterday as she appealed for the safe return of the teen who has been missing since Saturday.
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Sexual offences against minors
Under the Sexual Offences Act a minor is a person under the age of 18 years. The Act sets out specific offences which deal with any form of sexual abuse which may have been committed against a minor by an adult. A man who has sexual intercourse with a girl under the age of 14 years commits an offence and, if found guilty, is liable to a sentence of life imprisonment. It is not relevant whether the young girl consented to the intercourse or if the man was unaware that the girl was under 14 years of age.
A man who has sexual intercourse with a young girl between the age of 14 and 16 may be liable to imprisonment for twelve years. Under this category, the man may not be found guilty if:
(i) he honestly believed the girl to be 16 years of age or;
(ii) he is not more than three years older than the girl and the court forms the view that he was not wholly to blame.
It is an offence for a woman to have sexual intercourse with a young male under the age of 16 whether or not he has consented. If the woman is found guilty, the penalty is five years imprisonment. She may not be found guilty if:
(i) she honesty believed the young male to be 16 years or more or;
(ii) she is not more than three years older than the young male and the court forms the view that she was not wholly to blame.
Also, an adult who has sexual intercourse with a minor who is the adult’s adopted child, stepchild, foster child, ward or dependant in the adult’s custody is guilty of an offence, and if convicted, is liable to between twenty five years and life imprisonment. It is also an offence for an adult to have sexual intercourse with a child who is employed by the adult. If someone is found guilty of this offence, he or she may be liable to twenty five years imprisonment.
Any person who procures another for prostitution or procures a minor under 16 years to have sexual intercourse with another person is guilty of an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for 15 years. Nothing in the Act prevents a charge of rape being brought against a man who has sexual intercourse with a female without her consent. These offences, stated above, are age-specific offences created by statute.
Duty to report
Under the Act any person who has actual or temporary custody, care, charge or control of a minor, and who reasonably suspects that a sexual offence has been committed against that minor, must report his belief to the police as soon as possible. Persons under this duty include a parent or guardian; employer; teacher; and a medical practitioner, registered nurse or midwife who has medically examined a minor.
Failure to report without reasonable excuse is an offence carrying a possible fine of $15,000 or imprisonment for 7 years or both fine and imprisonment.
This column is not legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should consult a legal adviser. Co-ordinator: Roshan Ramcharitar