Teenage consensual sex should not be criminalised - Golding
Opposition lawmaker Mark Golding is proposing that the child diversion law be used to address consensual sexual encounters between teenagers rather than bringing criminal sanctions against them in the Home Circuit Court.
Reviewing the chief justice's Annual Statistics Report for 2017, Golding said the offence of sexual intercourse with a person under 16 years old was second to murder charges brought before the Home Circuit Court.
The report indicates that in 2017, there were 221 murder charges brought before the court, representing 21.2 per cent of the total charges.
CHARGES BEFORE THE COURT
However, he said that there were 189 charges before the Home Circuit Court for sexual intercourse with a person under 16 years old. This, he said, represents 18.16 per cent of the overall cases before the court.
According to Golding, data reviewed by the joint select committee that examined the Sexual Offences Act and related sexual statutes last year showed that at least half of the sexual offence charges involved consensual sex between teenagers. He said this is an issue that Parliament needs to address urgently.
"Child diversion is one solution to this, and I think an amendment to the Sexual Offences Act, Section 10, to eliminate the criminalisation of teenage promiscuity, which is consensual and does not involve any form of predatory conduct," he suggested.
Alando Terrelonge, state minister for culture, gender, entertainment and sport, called attention to what he said were the "atrocities meted out to many of our nation's children within the justice system".
"I have seen 14-year-old boys and 15-year-old boys dragged into court because they experimented with a young girl, 14, sometimes 15. ... We have a lot of young men who have gone through the [justice] system. It is embarrassing for them and it is embarrassing for their family."
The Child Diversion Bill is intended to introduce measures that more appropriately address the needs of children suspected, or accused, of committing criminal offences.