Officers in the Justice System must be Trained to Deal with the Disabled – Morris


Minister of State for Labour and Social Security, Senator Floyd Morris, has called for the training of officers in the justice system, including the police, to enable them to communicate with members of the disabled community.
According to Senator Morris, there is a difficulty with members of the community coming forward to report crimes, either because they are threatened or the difficulties they will encounter at the reporting level.
The difficulties, he said, included persons not being able to understand sign language while in the case of the blind victim, the question of whether they are able to identify their attackers becomes an issue.
The Senator was commenting on the report from the Joint Select Committee reviewing the Offences Against the Person Amendment Act and the Incest Punishment (Amendment) Act in the Upper House on Friday (June 29).
He expressed pleasure at the committee’s recommendation that DNA evidence be used in prosecuting cases involving vulnerable victims such as children and members of the disabled community, and that the justice system ensure additional training of personnel in issues relating to the disabled.
“Sexual activities and rape is a serious issue that is currently facing the community. On a number of occasions I have had complaints about the abuse that is being levied at various disabled individuals and it is because of certain stigma and perception that is there within the society,” he pointed out.
The Senator described as “absurd” the popular belief that having sex with a disabled person can cure certain sexually transmitted diseases, noting that such level of ignorance has contributed to the abuse of members of the community.
“If you understand the culture of the deaf community they are very loving and adorable and sometimes this is misconstrued and they are abused by persons,” he stated.
The report, which was accepted by the Senate, set out a range of new and amended sexual offences.
Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Senator A.J. Nicholson, who tabled the report, said the committee decided that instead of the two amended Bills, it would be more appropriate to enact a new Sexual Offences Act, “which would incorporate offences covered in the two amendment Bills and some new offences and related provisions”.
Of note, is that the committee decided that the provisions in the Offences against the Persons Act relating to the offences of buggery and gross indecency, should not be included in the proposed new legislation, but should remain in the existing Act. This, Senator Nicholson explained, is “in order to avoid any constitutional issues, which could arise if these offences are regarded as new offences.”
The committee also endorsed the recommendation that a Sex Offenders’ Registry be established to assist in the ongoing monitoring of offenders after they are released from custody. “This is seen as a means of ensuring appropriate treatment in order to reduce the rate of repeat offenders or repeat offending where possible. The details of the necessary legislation to give effect to this recommendation are now being worked out by a special task force,” Senator Nicholson informed.
Stating that the committee thought that a public education programme would be crucial to the effectiveness of the proposed legislation, he said that in making this recommendation, the members noted that persons sometimes acted out of ignorance, and that social and living arrangement sometimes created risk.
“It is therefore intended that if people are made more aware, then we would have conquered the psychological frontier for acting out of ignorance and failure to take the necessary measures would then be habits of the past,” he explained.
Opposition Senator, Dorothy Lightbourne, said she was pleased that the final report from the committee was now complete. “I think we have come along way. There has been a lot of work on this report, and I must congratulate all the persons and the government officers, who worked on this report and the various organizations who came and gave their input,” she stated.

JIS Social