Meeting to discuss a sex offender register for the OECS

(CNS) – The Canadian Government funded Improved Access to Justice in the Caribbean (IMPACT Justice) Project in collaboration with Judicial Reform and Institutional Strengthening (JURIST) Project, the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) and the OECS Commission hosted a regional consultation via Zoom on June 30, to discuss the need for a Sex Offender Register in the OECS.

This meeting was a follow up to a discussion, which started in St. Kitts and Nevis in December 2019 at an IMPACT Justice Symposium for Governments of OECS Member States, on a number of IMPACT Justice Model Bills.

Included in the presentations made at the Symposium, were proposed revisions to the Antigua and Barbuda Sexual Offences Act, 1995, and the proposed establishment of a National Sex Offender Register.

Based on the comments raised during this discussion, it was evident that further dialogue was needed on the scope of the proposed Register in light of possible issues which could arise with regard to the free movement of persons in the OECS.

Professor Velma Newton, CBE, SCM, Regional Project Director of the IMPACT Justice Project, chaired the meeting, which included remarks by Dame Janice Pereira, DBE, Chief Justice of the ECSC; Dwight Lay, General Counsel of the OECS Commission and Dennis Darby, Senior Advisor to the JURIST Project.

The main presenter was Adlai Smith, Director of Legal Reform and Special Legal Projects, Ministry of Legal Affairs, Antigua and Barbuda, who explored the pros and cons of private vs public sex offender registers, possible constitutional issues which could arise and provided a comparison between the IMPACT Justice draft National Sex Offender Register legislative provisions and the provisions contained in the Trinidad and Tobago Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act, No. 19 of 2019.

Smith was followed by Claire Guy- Alleyne, Superintendent of Police (Ag), and Head, Gender Based Violence Unit, Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, who spoke to the administration of the Trinidad and Tobago sex offender register; and UK criminologist, Maureen Grindley who spoke to the UK’s approach to its sex offender register and the operation of the Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme or Sarah’s Law.

The meeting was attended by 41 people including: Justice Andrew Burgess, Judge of the Caribbean Court of Justice; Iain Morley, High Court Judge, ECSC; Michele Gibson, Project Team Leader, IMPACT Justice and JURIST Projects and Justice Sector Team Leader, Global Affairs Canada; representatives of CARICOM IMPACS; Commissioners and other ranks of police officers from across the Caribbean; Directors of Public Prosecutions; Crown Counsel; and other legal officers within the Chambers of regional Attorneys General.

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