The Trinidad and Tobago Senate on Tuesday night approved legislation that gives the public the right to access a sex offender website providing names, photographs and date of birth of convicted persons a move welcomed by Trinidadians both at home and across the diaspora.
The Sexual Offences Amendment that was passed without opposition is seen as a step in the right direction making Trinidad the first CARICOM country to have a public sex offender registry.
Currently, only Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Belize have Sex Offender Registry Laws in some form. The rest of CARICOM have nothing properly institutionalized to help local police authorities monitor potential nefarious activity by sex offenders.
Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, who piloted the bill, said it is intended to create two registers: The National Sex Offender Register, which would be private and for the use of law enforcement only, and the Public Sex Offender Website, which would be accessible by the public. The website would be under the control of the Commissioner of Police.
Mr. Al-Rawi said convicted people would have their names added to the public register unless they appealed to the court not to do so for a valid reason, such as in the case of incest. He said granting this appeal would be at the discretion of the courts.
Though this is a welcomed move and we give all commendations to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago and encourage other Caribbean countries to follow suit, the journey to making the registry public was not however smooth sailing.
We can recall back in February when the people of Trinidad out of frustration with the registry not being public created an unofficial sex offenders’ registry to red-flag men who have been charged with sexual offences.
The registry of violent offenders against women in Trinidad and Tobago was established by a group called “My Trini Experience”.
The website provides a database of persons who were charged and named in newspaper reports.
The alleged offender’s names and photographs are in the registry and a link to the news story which reported the charge.
The page states clearly that it is not an official Government information site.
This, however, prompted the government to begin the process of updating the registry to include all offenders and subsequently making it public leaving us to wonder if the people of Jamaica, Belize and other Caribbean countries will have to take a similar route for their respective governments to consider a public sex offender registry.
Though some may argue that a public sex offender registry is a violation of human rights others believe sex offenders should face the full brunt of the law” as the registry is aimed at deterring, punishing and shaming rapists, pedophiles and others with a propensity to commit sexual offences.
Here in the United States, for example, interested members of the public have access to and may search participating Jurisdiction Website public information regarding the presence or location of offenders who, in most cases, have been convicted of sexually violent offenses against adults and children and certain sexual contact and other crimes against victims who are minors. The public can use this Website to educate themselves about the possible presence of such offenders in their local communities.
This might not be the be-all and end-all to sexual offenses, but the Trinidad and Tobago government must be lauded for their efforts as this is definitely a step in the right direction to deterrence.