THE EDITOR, Sir:
I am lobbying to have the law regarding sex offences include as a part of its provisions the protection of the names of both the complainant and the accused. The need to do whatever is necessary to protect the identity of victims of sexual offences is more than obvious.
However, inasmuch as there is justified lobbying for the public to have access to the names of those convicted of sexual offences, we need to respect the constitutional rights of those merely accused of these offences.
Every Jamaican is presumed innocent until a competent court decides otherwise.
This is a well-guarded principle of our justice system, and is specifically protected by Section 16 (5) of the newly enshrined Charter of Rights, which provides as follows:
"Every person charged for a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until he is proved guilty or has pleaded guilty."
Quite recently, a police officer's image was placed on television evening news - he being accused of the offence of buggery, with the use of a firearm. What if this officer is acquitted? The irreparable damage has already been done, and an innocent man - and his family - now has to live with an undeserved stain.
By not standing up for the protection of an accused person's identity, are we not, in the subtlest of ways, giving assent to those who would - without benefit of trial - set upon and chop to death those accused people who have never had an opportunity to adequately defend themselves in a court?
Respecting the rights of others means that we don't wait until our rights - or that of someone we care about - is affected, before speaking out. We must all benefit equally under the law, regardless of the person involved or the viciousness of the accusation.
Yes, by all means, publish the names of those who have already been convicted, but equally, respect the law regarding the presumption of innocence, and protect those accused until the day of conviction!