Debate on Sexual Offences Bill Continues in Senate


Government Senator, Dennis Meadows, has suggested limitations on the types of cases for which persons could be listed in the Sexual Offenders Register proposed under the Sexual Offences Bill.
“I suggest we look at levels of registration, and what degrees of registration should be accessible to the public,” he said, noting that the levels of registration should vary according to the degree of the offence.
Senator Meadows was speaking in the Senate on Friday, as the debate continued on the Sexual Offences bill, which seeks to bring under one umbrella various laws relating to rape, incest and other sexual offences. It also provides for the establishment of a Sex Offender Registry, which will maintain a register of sex offenders to be known as the Sex Offenders Register.
Senator Meadows however, said that while the registers are designed to protect and alert the public to the dangers and whereabouts of the offenders, there has been no evidence that mandatory registration has made any society safer.
Opposition Senator A.J. Nicholson cited the move to establish the Sex Offender Registry at the same time as the enactment of the Bill, as the cause of the continued delay in the enactment of the Sexual Offences Act.
“All that is to be accomplished by the passage of this Bill, is for legislative approval to be given for the establishment of a Registry. A combination of Clauses 29 (4) and 38 requires that such a Registry cannot become functional, until and unless the necessary regulations to underpin its workings are developed and presented and passed by both Houses of Parliament,” Senator Nicholson stated.
Opposition member, Senator Norman Grant welcomed the Sex Offenders Registry as an important component of the Bill.
“I think it can also help to deal with the issues that we have highlighted, as it relates to the constant assault on our young people,” he said.
However, Senator Grant felt that, because the registry is so urgent, a supplementary Act should have been drafted, called the Sex Offenders Registry Act, dealing specifically with the operational issues that will make it implementable.
Turning to the matter of sexual offences committed within the institution of marriage, Senator Meadows said that he was of the belief that these offences could not be equated with other sexual offences within the Bill.
He suggested that Section 5, which deals with marital rape, be removed and possibly treated under the Domestic Violence Act.
He suggested too that marital rape, be treated as a grievous sexual assault making it a gender neutral offence, as he was of the view that women are also capable of committing rape, as well.
Opposition Senator, Mark Golding, also pointed to discrepancies in the Bill in relation to marital rape. He said that Section 5 of the Bill was more restrictive of the rights of wives than the common law now is, because it specifies five limited circumstances in which a husband commits the offence of rape against his wife.
Those circumstances are where the couple have separated; there is a separation agreement between them; proceedings for divorce, or a decree of nullity of the marriage has been filed; a court order has been made against the husband for non-cohabitation, non-molestation, or ousted from the home; or, the husband knows that he has a sexually transmitted disease.
Opposition Senator, Navel Clarke, though declaring support for the Bill, raised issues relating to grievous sexual assault, as well as the power of search and the effect of the provisions on current buggery laws.
Debate on the Bill is expected to continue in the Senate on Friday.

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