Joint Select Committee Recommends Comprehensive Sexual Offences Legislation


The Joint Select Committee that is reviewing the proposed reform of the Offences Against the Person (Amendment) Act and the Incest Punishment (Amendment) Act has recommended that a Sexual Offences Act be created to deal with all sexually related offences.
This was disclosed by Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Senator AJ Nicholson at Thursday’s (March 22) sitting of the Senate. He said that such a piece of legislation would include the offences detailed in the two Bills that were being considered by the Committee, as well as additional offences, and any other related provisions. “It is felt that this approach allows for an easy location of all the relevant provisions. It also provides an opportunity for upgrading the existing provisions, since it will be necessary to review all the sexual offences in the Offences Against the Person Act -and not only those in the Bill- to determine the need for amendment or repeal,” he informed.
In the meantime, the Justice Minister said that many of the submissions to the Joint Select Committee recommended the establishment of a Sex Offenders Registry.
He however added that “based on research presented to the Committee, it was recognized that the ramifications of this initiative required careful consideration, on issues such as which offences would be covered; the degree of public notification that would be required; who would be entitled to access such information; and the reporting requirements especially as to duration and frequency.”
“The settlement of all the relevant policy issues would require the participation of the various stakeholders. It was decided, therefore that the enactment of legislation to establish such a registry would be best treated as a separate exercise so as not to delay the process in train,” said the Minister.
He noted that a special Task Force has been established for this purpose and had already embarked upon the exercise.
Justice Minister also informed Colleague Senators that the Joint Select Committee believed that the penalties for sexual offences should reflect the seriousness of the offences, especially where committed against the most vulnerable in the society.
“The present thinking is inclined towards a penalty structure, which differentiates between sexual violation involving adults and violation involving an adult and a minor or a mentally challenged or otherwise disabled person,” he stated.

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