Trinidad objects to public naming of sex convicts

Sophia Chote, SC

(Trinidad Guardian) At least one In­de­pen­dent Sen­a­tor is not in sup­port of the names of sex­u­al of­fend­ers go­ing pub­lic.

Sophia Chote, SC, said that this has the po­ten­tial of open­ing the flood­gates for vig­i­lante jus­tice in T&T.

Chote made the com­ment in the Sen­ate on Tues­day dur­ing her con­tri­bu­tion on the Sex­u­al Of­fences (Amend­ment) Bill to cre­ate a sex­u­al of­fend­ers reg­istry.

She said mak­ing the names of sex­u­al of­fend­ers pub­lic will al­so stig­ma­tise the name of the con­vict­ed per­son.

“So if the T&T Po­lice Ser­vice has a list of sex­u­al of­fend­ers, then, cer­tain­ly that is go­ing to help them iden­ti­fy who may have per­pe­trat­ed a par­tic­u­lar crime and bring that per­son to jus­tice. To me, that is more in the pub­lic’s in­ter­est than putting some­thing up on the web in a po­lice sta­tion.”

She cit­ed a 2007 US ar­ti­cle en­ti­tled a “com­par­i­son of sex­u­al of­fend­ers and the non-of­fend­ing pub­lic” which showed that half of the sex of­fend­ers who were in­ter­viewed claimed they re­ceived “threats, had their prop­er­ty dam­aged and had been phys­i­cal­ly as­sault­ed and ran out of town ba­si­cal­ly as a re­sult of pub­lic dis­clo­sure.”

Chote said it meant that if vig­i­lantes know some­one had com­mit­ted a sex­u­al of­fence which goes pub­lic, they would not have any guilt of ad­min­is­ter­ing their own jus­tice.

“And cer­tain­ly that is some­thing we don’t want to en­cour­age in this so­ci­ety. We’ve had in­ci­dents with re­sult­ing in deaths where peo­ple have tak­en jus­tice in­to their own hands. I think we sub­scribe to law and or­der. We do not want to en­cour­age or put any­thing in place which may al­low that to hap­pen.”

“We can­not have pol­i­cy tak­ing away from cit­i­zens’ rights re­gard­less of whether the cit­i­zen has com­mit­ted a crime. I know this is go­ing to make me dread­ful­ly un­pop­u­lar but thank­ful­ly it re­al­ly does not mat­ter,” Chote said.

As leg­is­la­tors, Chote said it was im­por­tant to un­der­stand the bal­anc­ing act they have to per­form.

“Don’t get me wrong. I for one minute am not say­ing there shouldn’t be a reg­is­ter.”

As an at­tor­ney, Chote said there are dif­fer­ent kinds of of­fences and of­fend­ers.

Chote said she was al­so tak­en by sur­prise when At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Faris Al-Rawi in pi­lot­ing the bill spoke about hav­ing a sex of­fend­er’s pass­port be­ing stamped which she felt was un­rea­son­able.

Al-Rawi told Chote that on­ly pass­ports of con­vict­ed child of­fend­ers will be stamped which are done in oth­er coun­tries.

“This stamp­ing of the pass­port is ef­fec­tive­ly go­ing to block you from seek­ing em­ploy­ment any­where else in the world. So you are af­fect­ing lib­er­ty. You are af­fect­ing pri­va­cy. I think there are oth­er means of achiev­ing the same pur­pose with­out hav­ing the dra­con­ian act of stamp­ing your pass­port and say­ing for­ev­er more you are a child of­fend­er.”

While she agreed that chil­dren ought to be pro­tect­ed, Chote said there are ap­pro­pri­ate ways where in­for­ma­tion can be shared by all polic­ing agen­cies through­out the world.

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