MEMBERS of the public will soon be able to learn the identities of any convicted sex offenders living amongst them, according to a new bill laid in the Senate on Tuesday in the name of Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill 2021.
The Commissioner of Police (CoP) shall maintain a Public Sex Offender Website, the bill mandates, which the public can access at the click of a mouse.
Two years ago in February 2019 Al-Rawi had piloted the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill 2019 which had proposed the CoP compile an online public register of convicted sex offenders, whose passports would also be stamped with a public warning.
However, while the register was approved as a document to stay in police hands, public access to it was denied (as was a passport stamp,) after a recommendation by a Senate Special Select Committee at the urgings of a group of NGOs including CAISO, Womantra and the Institute of Gender and Development Studies of the University of the West Indies (UWI.)
The NGOs had suggested publicity could expose the offender and his relatives to danger and harm efforts at his rehabilitation. However, since the kidnapping and murder of Andrea Bharatt, 23, and Ashanti Riley, 18, many people including Riley's mother have called for public access to a sexual offenders register.
Only one name is on the 2019 register which remains for police eyes only, registers only freshly-convicted offenders and does not apply retroactively to publicly list past offenders.
However the new bill's explanatory notes said, "The Commissioner of Police shall have control of a website to be known as the Public Sex Offender Website. The public will have access to this website, which will set out specified information on sex offenders."
The bill, in clause seven, says, "There shall be established two registers to be known as the (a) 'National Sex Offender Register'; and (b) 'Public Sex Offender Website.'"
The bill, in section nine, says the public sex offender website shall list a sex offender's "(i) name, former names and aliases; (ii) date of birth; (iii) photograph; (iv) the locality in which the sex offender lives; and (v) convictions of registrable offences committed by the sex offender, including the date of each conviction."
More so the website must display a warning against the misuse of information published on the website.
The bill says an offender, upon conviction, may apply to a law court to be exempt from having his/her information published, with the court entitled to order a mental assessment by a psychiatrist before making a determination.
The court's decision on an application for exemption shall take into account that assessment, the nature and gravity of the offence, whether he/she has been charged or convicted of any other registrable offence, the risk of re-offending, the risk of harm to the victim or anyone else, whether the victim was a child or had a mental disorder, whether the offender was in a position of care or authority or supervision of the victim, whether the offender's employment and residence status are stable and any other compelling reasons in the circumstances of the case.
Newsday was unable to contact Al-Rawi, who was attending an event, for comment.