Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
A proposal in the regulations for the establishment of a sex offenders registry, which says persons who are guilty of the unauthorised release of information on sex offenders will be subject to up to a quarter-million-dollar fine and/or three months' imprisonment, has been shut down by three legislators.
Opposition senators Robert Montague and Kamina Johnson Smith joined their government colleague, Lambert Brown, in saying there was an inconsistency with penalties for breaches.
The regulations, which have been approved by the Senate, say a sex offender must, at all times while he is away from his main residence, have a certificate of sex offender on his person. Failure to do so could lead to him being fined up to $1 million and/or subjected to 12 months' imprisonment.
"I can't accept that somebody who wilfully releases confidential information should be subject merely to three months' imprisonment, or a fine up to $250,000, but somebody who rushes to take their mother to the hospital in an emergency could be fined up to $1 million, or 12 months' imprisonment," Brown said.
"The fact that somebody committed a sexual offence is not reason to be battering them with the likelihood of a sentence of up to $1 million," Brown added.
A delicate issue
Johnson Smith voiced her concern about the matter during the debate, saying the offender's right for privacy must be protected. She pointed to issues such as mob violence and said care must be taken to ensure proper treatment of sensitive information.
"The potential impact of the unauthorised or inappropriate release of information could certainly be far greater than we might ever intend," Johnson Smith said.
Similarly, Montague said the penalty for the wilfully unauthorised release of information should be much tougher, arguing that vigilante justice could be the end result of such action.
"It may be applied, not even in a sexual matter, but because he is a person of interest, people in the district get suspicious. Somebody lose their goat and the first person you turn to is the man who is purported to be on the registry," Montague said.
In the the meantime, Justice Minister Mark Golding, who piloted the regulations, said they represented new ground for Jamaica.
"If necessary, down the road, we will have to adjust this regime. It is a new regime charting new ground for Jamaica. It is not a perfect system by any means," Golding said.
The regulations allow for the sex offender's name to be stored in the registry for at least 10 years, after which time it is removed.