Bystanders should be criminally responsible in rape cases

- activist

Persons who watch a rape being committed and do nothing to stop it or assist in bringing the perpetrator (s) to justice should be held criminally responsible, Red Thread member Wintress White says.

During a recent interview, the activist called for an inclusion in law for persons who watch the act being committed and do nothing to help to be charged.

The question of criminal responsibility arose following the rape of a 17-year-old at a creek along the Linden/Soesdyke Highway in May. Reports are that the teen had accompanied six or seven men to the popular spot for a day of fun. However, after swimming for some time, the teen was raped under a bridge and a police source had said that several men were around at the time of the incident.

Several of the men were detained for questioning but were later released. At that time, the perpetrator had not been caught. It is unclear if he was ever arrested.

White told Stabroek News that she believes bystanders are just as guilty as the perpetrators. However, she said she has never come across a case where a girl/woman was raped in the full view of others. “They are sick to just look on. They probably get some sort of excitement from watching on,” she said, adding that it is just like those looking on have committed the rape. She said that although they did not physically participate, they got joy out of watching.

She said this issue needs to be urgently addressed since “it is criminal”.

According to Crime Chief Seelall Persaud, little action can be taken against such witnesses, since they were not actual participants in the act. On the other hand, he said, if they assist the perpetrator (s) in some way, they could be held accountable.

During a recent interview, Persaud said: “If a person comes across a rape in progress and does nothing they cannot be held accountable.

But if they encourage or conspire they could be held accountable.” He said there have been cases where persons have been convicted for not committing the rape but assisting the perpetrator in the commission of the act.

“You might not act physically but if you act in concert with or support the perpetrator (s) you can face the law,” he said, adding that if a law enforcement officer witnesses such an act and does nothing or fails to report the matter to the relevant authorities, he or she will be dealt with.

He stressed that if a person just stands and watches a rape in progress, there is nothing the police can do, even if they fail to report the matter.

Meanwhile, attorney Anil Nandlall said it is a question of whether the persons would have aided, abetted, counselled or procured the commission of the offence. He said this is the issue that needs to be addressed.  He said such a person is an accessory to the crime, noting that the final decision regarding the way forward in such cases lies with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

The attorney told Stabroek News that “mere presence is not normally enough” as the law requires a little more to implicate such a person. He explained that an example of what may be an additional requirement to institute a charge would be if that person along with the perpetrator planned to commit the act “from the inception. That is different.

While I didn’t participate I stood as a lookout or it is whether I encouraged by words or by my conduct without actually participating in the rape,” Nandlall said.

He said currently there are laws governing these types of situations. According to Nandlall, there are reported cases with these circumstances in Guyana, the Caribbean and England. He pointing out though that the cases vary.

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