Parliament Continues Debate on Sexual Offences Bill


Member of Parliament for South Western St. Ann, Ernest Smith, has expressed the view that the proposed Sexual Offences Act should focus on protecting minors.
“Most of the victims of the vicious, violent behaviour are in fact little boys and girls, months old, up to the age of say ten. There are thousands of cases out there which have never been reported, of little girls (of the ages) three, four, five or six, and little boys, who are being sexually abused,” he stated.
Mr. Smith was making his contribution to the debate on the bill in the House of Representatives Tuesday (Feb. 10).
“When a five year old’s uncle or brother abuses her and scars her for life, what is the position in the law as it exists today? Does the law allow that five year-old’s testimony to stand without more (evidence)? No. So we need to seek to direct the legislation, where certain evidential niceties should no longer be necessary, particularly as it relates to the main victims,” he said.
He added that what needs to be examined is whether the issue of corroboration should be dispensed with.
“The question as to whether or not the victim is speaking the truth, is a question for the jury to decide. So, as a matter of law, we ought not to be throwing out cases merely because of the age of the victim,” he added.
Mr. Smith also submitted that victims should not be exposed to the trauma of a preliminary enquiry prior to trial.
“The victim turns up on the first appearance and sometimes the matter is mentioned five, six, seven, eight, nine (or) ten times before the prosecution says that its case is ready for a preliminary enquiry. During that time, the victims and relatives of the victim have to make these public appearances, and from time to time, they are abused by the accused and persons connected with them. This is one area of our jurisprudence, where we ought to dispense with preliminary enquiries,” he told the House.
Member of Parliament for North Eastern St. Ann, Shahine Robinson, said that the Bill was important, given the nature of the crimes inflicted daily on the country’s women and children.
“Young boys and girls are robbed of their innocence daily, and the perpetrators often escape with only a slap on the wrist. Thousands of women and children are in a state of psychological distress and or trauma, because of these acts,” she said.
She urged strong laws to protect the innocent, and punish the guilty.
“We should not just stop at simply making new provisions in the Offences Against the Person Act, to make new provisions for the prosecution of rape and other sexual offences. We must implore parliamentarians, church leaders, educators, the media, citizens to redouble efforts in working to stem the tide of sexual violence pervading our society,” she said.
The Sexual Offences Act of 2008 is an amalgamation of various laws relating to rape, incest and other sexual offences. It will repeal the Incest (Punishment) Act and several provisions of the Offences Against the Person Act, involving to rape and other sex crimes, if passed. The debate continues on Tuesday February 17.

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