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The Sex Offenders Registry and the Sex Offences Register are one step closer to becoming reality, following the Senate’s approval of Regulations governing their establishment.

The Senate on Friday October 12, 2012 endorsed the Sexual Offenses (Registration of Sex Offenders) Regulations, 2012, tabled in the Senate last week (October 5), which seeks to establish and operate the register and registry.

Provisions are made in the Sexual Offenses Act for the establishment of the register and registry. Under the Act, persons convicted of certain specified offences including rape, abduction and the sale or trafficking of persons, are required to be registered in the Sex Offenders Registry.

Senator the Hon. Mark Golding, who moved the resolution for the Regulations, explained that although the Act had been passed in 2009, it was not actually brought into effect until 2011. He noted that parts 1 to 6 and part 8 of the Act and the Schedules, were brought into effect on June 30, 2011.

“However, part 7 which makes the provision for the register and registry, has not been brought into effect as the consensus is the register and registry cannot operate without regulations in force to guide their operations,” he said.

Senator Golding stressed that the register and registry “are immediately required in order that persons convicted of a specified offence under the Act can be registered and the relevant data collected”.

He said the Regulations deal with matters including the procedure for entry of information into the register; the establishment and location of registration centres; the reporting and notification obligations of sex offenders; the form and content of the register; the grant of access to the register; the functions and operations of the registry; the monitoring of sex offenders; and the management of and retention requirements for information recorded in the registry.

In his contribution to the discussions, Opposition Senator, Robert Montague, who supported the Regulations, praised the Minister of Justice, “for taking, in my view, this bit of groundbreaking legislation to the Senate.”

Senator Montague also raised the issue of possible vigilante justice, should unauthorised information be released from the registry.

In response, Senator Golding, said the Government has sought to mitigate those risks as much possible, while still maintaining an effective registry system, “but limiting who can get information to those persons, who on the face of it, would have a real reason to be asking”.

Opposition Senator, Kamina Johnson-Smith and Government Senator, Lambert Brown, though in support of the Regulations, both suggested that the penalties for persons convicted of disclosing unauthorised information should be harsher.

Senator Golding replied that if necessary, “down the road we will have to address this regime. It’s a new regime, charting new ground for Jamaica. It’s not a perfect system by any means. It’s a very difficult subject but I think we should proceed with it and over time we can improve it if it becomes clear that there are areas where improvement could be had”.

According to the Regulations, persons deemed guilty of unauthorized disclosure of information relating to the registry, are liable to a fine not exceeding $250,000 or a prison term not exceeding three months, or both.                                                                                                           

Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Hon. A. J. Nicholson, Government Senator Floyd Morris and Opposition Senator Arthur Williams, also contributed to the debate. The Regulations are to be sent to the Lower House for approval.