Wed | Nov 25, 2020

Peeping Tom landlords to be punished

Published:Friday | November 20, 2020 | 12:17 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Parliamentary Reporter

Landlords who utilise technological devices such as cameras to spy on their tenants or invade their privacy could soon face sanctions when the Cybercrimes Act is amended.

Director of legal reform in the Ministry of Justice, Maurice Bailey, told members of a joint select committee examining the sexual harassment bill yesterday that spying on tenants in other jurisdictions was a serious criminal offence.

He said that the Cybercrimes Act was now being reviewed and part of the concerns to be addressed include using technology to invade the privacy of tenants.

His remarks come against the background of recommendations made by director of the Rent Assessment Unit, Shenese Headlam, to strengthen the proposed sexual harassment law.

Headlam told members of the committee that her unit had received reports from tenants who had been sexually harassed in various ways by their landlords.

“I had a client who came to my office and she was most distressed, and she said that her bulb was not working in her room and the landlord said he would fix the bulb,” Headlam explained, adding that the landlord installed a camera in the bedroom of the tenant.

She disclosed that the tenant discovered that a camera was placed in her room and reported the matter to the Rent Assessment Unit and subsequently the police.

The memorandum of objects and reasons of the bill states that claims in respect of sexual harassment at institutions or within the landlord or tenant relationship are to be brought in the parish court, acting in its civil jurisdiction.

The Rent Assessment Unit wants the bill to set out clearly that sexual favours should not be suggested or requested in lieu of rent, bills or repairs to the property.

“I can recall an incident where a landlord and a tenant had an arrangement to forgo the rent that was owed by the tenant. The landlord and tenant agreed that the tenant would provide sexual favours and, after those were provided, the landlord still went ahead and sued the tenant at court for the rent that was owed,” Headlam recounted.

Headlam wants the legislation to stipulate that a landlord who has keys for his tenant’s dwelling should not use it as an opportunity to enter the house in pursuit of sexual favours.

Committee member Rhoda Crawford gave full support to a recommendation that the law should also include other institutions such as churches and sports clubs.

She said that critical spaces such as the church are overlooked because they are often seen as safe havens.

Crawford argued that churches account for very large numbers of people and should be included under the designation of institutions.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com