Fri | Jan 18, 2019

Committee proposes criminal charges for people who wilfully transmit STIs

Published:Thursday | December 13, 2018 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett/ Senior Parliamentary Reporter

A parliamentary committee has recommended that it should be a criminal offence for individuals to "knowingly" infect a partner with a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Further, the panel has suggested that the offence of stalking be added to the books.

The recommendations were included in the report of the joint select committee of both Houses of Parliament, which reviewed the Sexual Offences Act, the Offences Against the Person Act (OAPA), the Child Care and Protection Act and the Domestic Violence Act.

The report was tabled in Parliament on Tuesday.

"Your committee acknowledged that there is a deficiency in the law in relation to the deliberate or intentional spreading of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases," the report noted.

It continued, "The act should be amended to make it a criminal offence for someone to willfully or recklessly infect a partner with any sexual transmissible disease that can inflict serious bodily harm."

The committee said it discovered that there was no substantive offence of stalking in either the Sexual Offences Act or the Offences Against the Person Act (OAPA).

"We felt that this omission should be addressed and, therefore, decided to insert a new, substantive offence of stalking in the OAPA," the report said.

 

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS

 

Here are some of the key recommendations of the joint select committee of Parliament that reviewed the Sexual Offences Act, the Offences Against the Persons Act, the Domestic Violence Act and the Child Care and Protection Act.

 

GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS

 

 

1. Violence against vulnerable groups

 

Insert a provision in the Sexual Offences Act to provide that where there are vulnerable victims of rape and grievous sexual assault (vaginal and anal), defined as a child under 12 years old, a person with a physical or mental disability, or an elderly person over 70 years old, this should be treated as an aggravating factor, which would carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years.

 

2. Murder of a pregnant woman

 

Section 20 of the Offences Against the Person Act, which deals with grievous bodily harm, be amended to expressly include the victim's known or visible pregnancy as an aggravating factor in determining the sentence.

 

SPECIFIC RECOMMENDATIONS

 

 

1. The Sexual Offences Act

 

- The definition of rape should remain unchanged.

- Amend the language in section nine to capture different means by which persons could engage a child in order to groom that child, including digital communication and social media.

- Agreed, by majority, to retain the age of consent as 16 years old. The minority expressed strong support for raising it to 18 years old.

 

2. The Child Care and Protection Act

 

- A provision should be inserted in this section of the appropriate section of the act to indicate that corporal punishment should be prohibited in all schools, public institutions for the care, instruction or guidance of children who are in the care of the state and in all public places.

 

3. Offences Against the Person Act:

 

- On the issue of abortion, the committee recommended that Parliament consider reconstituting the joint select committee that deliberated on this matter or determine the method by which the draft report which has been prepared could be reviewed and submitted to Parliament.

- The act should be amended to make it a criminal offence for someone to willfully or recklessly infect a partner with any sexual transmissible disease that can inflict serious bodily harm.

- Insert a new, substantive offence of stalking, which should be formulated using the provisions of the United Kingdom Protection from Harassment Act 1997 as a guide.

 

4. Domestic Violence Act

 

- Section 4 (2) be amended to widen the threshold to be met for obtaining protection orders.

- The fine (for breaching a protection order) should be increased from $10,000 to $500,000.

- A separate joint select committee of Parliament should be established to carry out a comprehensive review of the act on its own.