San Fernando Jama Masjid worshippers hid in their mosque on Wednesday night when a man walked onto the masjid’s compound and killed the son of a popular People’s National Movement (PNM) activist.
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‘Sex offenders’ registry in T&T long overdue’
Its aim was to protect the nation’s women and children, but since its public proposal in 2011 nothing has been done to establish a sexual offenders’ registry. In September 2011, former minister of justice Herbert Volney had said the registry was being worked on and a bill pertaining to it was expected to be brought before Parliament by the end of 2011. Almost a year later, in 2012, Volney was fired from the People’s Partnership Government and the registry still had not been implemented.
Volney, in an interview with the Sunday Guardian last Wednesday, said he could not explain why three years after the announcement there was still no sexual offenders’ registry. In a letter to the editor in last Tuesday’s T&T Guardian, questions were raised as to why the registry had not yet been implemented. Volney said at the time he left office, the Sex Offenders’ Registry Bill was “with the legal department, and the department was working on how it should be implemented.”
He said T&T was way behind, “...still in the last century,” and the bill was long overdue. Volney added that the legislation was not specific to children. The merit of establishing a registry needed careful consideration, said former independent senator and human rights activist Diana Mahabir-Wyatt.
In a phone interview with the Sunday Guardian, Mahabir-Wyatt said she believed such a registry would be quite useful. But T&T, she said, already had many laws which were not implemented and enforced. To make full use of the registry, Mahabir-Wyatt said, strong structures also had to be put in place and a special section of the police force trained to address the matter.
She said the legislation required would be very complex. Human rights, Mahabir-Wyatt said, also had to be taken into account when drafting the legislation since there was a need to ensure it did not infringe on anyone’s rights while protecting women and children.
George: I need to speak with the PS
Justice Minister Emmanuel George, when contacted, said he needed to speak in greater detail with the ministry’s permanent secretary on the matter. He said he would provide more information on the registry by tomorrow.
Pros and cons of registry
There has been some debate as to the usefulness of the sex offenders registry. A 2010 report from the Rape Crisis Society’s regional conference outlined the pros and cons of having a registry. Among the pros identified were the following: it identified potential offenders; alerted parents/guardians/adults to ensure the safety of children; helped police keep track of past offenders and allowed for better data collection and research.
Among the cons were the following: it would not prevent sexual offences from occurring “unless it is used and used properly”; it would remain difficult to measure the desired impact, ie, a lower number of sex offenders; it was a violation of human rights and raised the possibility of witch-hunting through media reports.