ATTORNEY General Faris Al-Rawi and Opposition Senator Gerald Ramdeen crossed verbal swords on Thursday, over taking DNA samples from people charged with sexual offences.
Al-Rawi and Ramdeen’s argument happened during a public hearing of the Special Select Committee (SSC) on the Sexual Offenders Amendment Bill 2019 at Tower D of the Port of Spain International Waterfront Centre.
Ramdeen argued, “The taking of a sample, intimate or otherwise, from someone who has not been convicted of any offence, who has been charged, is not justifiable in any democratic society.” He said he was unaware of any case “in our jurisdiction that decides that is the position.” Ramdeen said the European Court of Human Rights’ decision on the case of S and Marper v United Kingdom supported this. Al-Rawi countered that case spoke to the retention, not the taking of samples. Explaining this was “a very material difference,” he added, “We have amended the DNA Act many times now.”
When he had been an opposition senator, Al-Rawi recalled, “The last government specifically passed the law to allow that.” As SSC chairman Clarence Rambharat moved to restore order, Al-Rawi said, “This turn of face as to what the law is or isn’t from a political party, I consider to be very unusual.”
Ramdeen replied, “I am not bound.” He said his position on the SSC is to state what he understood the law to be. “When DNA legislation was passed, I was not in the Senate, I was not in the House of Representatives.” Rambharat said SSC members will discuss these matters in private.
Earlier in the hearing, Vision on Mission programme director Gordon Husbands supported Independent Senator Dr Varma Deyalsingh’s suggestion that chemical castration be used as a deterrent to sexual offenders. Referring to his experience in the prison service, Husbands said sexual offenders experience different sexual arousal disorders. He said there should be rehabilitation for sexual offenders in prison and in remand.
Husbands also said the Prisons Commissioner should have the ability to inform the victim and the victim’s family when the offender is going to be released.
Child Welfare League president Dawn George said once the bill is passed, it must be implemented immediately. She agreed with suggestions for rehabilitation of sexual offenders, but said even if their names are taken off the website over time, their names should remain on the registry forever, as this would serve as a deterrent to other potential offenders.