Sexual Offences regulations need higher fine for breach of secrecy .... and Portia should walk opposition talk on crime fighting
We have always regarded Senator Mark Golding as one of the more cerebral and even-handed member of the legislature. He has generally been quick to accept when something is going wrong and is amenable to change.
But for some reason unknown, Golding, who is the justice minister, in the face of well-placed impassioned plea about an area of concern in the regulations for the sexual offences registry, made the matter slide.
The matter relates to the penalty for persons who improperly discloses information from the sexual offences register about sex offenders.
During the debate on the regulations in the Senate on Friday, three senators - Kamina Johnson Smith, Lambert Brown and Robert Montague - argued for the $250,000 penalty to be increased for the unauthorised and improper disclosure of the information.
They argued that the release of such information may have dire consequences for sex offenders. We associate ourselves with that position. Sex offenders, having already served time behind bars, are to have their names, date of birth, address and even car licence plates recorded. If the sex offenders change address they must give that information, and almost as if they are on parole they must carry around with them a certificate of sexual offender.
The Gavel won't argue the fairness, or lack thereof, of the way in which sex offenders are to be monitored. Instead, our issue is on that of confidentiality. Like the three named senators, it is our view that the fine is ridiculously too low. We don't need to live under rocks to know that rogue elements in communities, having been in receipt of the information, can decide to exact their own brand of justice against a sex offender.
It is for this reason we feel the fine should be $5 million or a maximum three years' imprisonment.
It must be noted that these sex offenders would have already served time in prison for their crimes. Now, having been released back into society, their names and other personal information are to be stored for at least 10 years in the register. Now, we don't condone any acts of violence but neither do we believe that a man's past is his potential. Nonetheless, it is with good reason we believe that the state sets the penalty of $1 million and or twelve months' imprisonment for failure of a man, who has already served his time, to walk around with his sex offender's pass. The message the state is clearly sending, and rightfully so, is that once you are a sex offender you will be monitored, and if you fail to comply it will be costly.
However, it is such a pity the state does not put such premium on the safety of the offenders once they have been released.
The Gavel also takes issue with the requirement of the regulations for the particulars of the victims to be kept in the register. The regulations call for the name, address and telephone number and email address of the victim to be kept in the register.
We feel that this is totally unnecessary when one considers that victims of a sex offence spend a life-time trying to put the ordeal behind them. It is our view that all records relating to vitcims of sex crimes must die at the end of a criminal trial.
On another matter, The Gavel is calling upon Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to bring leadership to tackling the country's crime problem. It is our view that the use of the Parliament can go a far way in helping to make Jamaica a safe and secure country.
We recall Simpson Miller, as opposition leader, calling for the House Leader to set aside time in the Parliament to discuss solutions to tackle the country's crime problem
"Crime robs us of seven per cent of GDP. Crime increases the number of trauma cases in our hospitals, it reduces the productivity of businesses and it affects the ability of our children to learn," Simpson Miller said in her 2010-2011 Budget speech.
"We are therefore recommending that we take time to discuss in the Parliament the levels of crime in the country and the actions that, as a people, we must be take. We must send a strong signal to the country that as a Parliament, we are united on this critical issue," Simpson Miller said.
The only thing that has changed since that recommendation is that she is now Prime Minister and the People's National Party which she leads now forms the government. Now, more than ever, the country needs all hands on deck in the fight against crime. Simpson Miller must put action to her pronouncement made from the comfort of her seat as opposition leader.
She should instruct House Leader Phillip Paulwell and National Security Minister Peter Bunting to arrange such a debate, which we believe could take place one Wednesday per month.
Tuesday - 2 p.m. -
Wednesday - 10 a.m. Public Administration & Appropriations Committee
Wednesday — 2 p.m. -
Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Anthony Hylton will move a motion for the lifting of the economic and financial blockade against Cuba.
The motion will be debated the same afternoon.
The House will also commence debate on the following Bills:
The Judicature (Supreme Court) (Validation and Amendment) Act, 2012
The Legal Profession (Amendment) Act, 2012
The Consumer Protection (Amendment) Act, 2012
The Mutual Assistance (Criminal Matters) (Designated Commonwealth States) (Amendment) Order, 2012, to be debated