Minister of National Security and Home Affairs, Rayburn Blackmoore, says that the Government of Dominica is open to the idea of introducing a sex offenders registry and reviewing the age of consent on island, with a view to increasing it.
His comments came at a press conference this week, which sought to educate the public on Dominica’s sexual offences act of the 2017 Revised Laws of the Commonwealth of Dominica.
In light of the recent increase in child sexual abuse cases, many have called for the establishment of a sex offenders registry in Dominica which will see convicted offenders’ names publicly listed, along with other pertinent information such as their date of birth, nationality and address, with the aim of making the public aware that a sexual predator may be in their midst.
According to Blackmoore, the introduction of the registry was one of the recommendations made during the discussion and consultation held as part of the review of Dominica’s legislation.
“So of course, that’s something we still will consider going forward,” he said.
“As we go forward in terms of ensuring that the public knows of someone who is a potential threat, especially as it pertains to minors, it is something that we have to give consideration to, but also a balance has to be struck going forward,” the National Security Minister added. “You may have some people who have served the time, and who have been through some element of reform, having served their time and being out in the public domain.”
He pointed out that despite the absence of a sexual offenders registry, he police have kept what is called a ‘rogues gallery’ with the pictures, photographs, and the type of offences various offenders have been convicted for.
Acting Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Sherma Dalrymple, also revealed that Dominica’s Sexual Offences Act does make provisions in section 38 for the names of the accused to be published where applications are made by the prosecution and also the complainant in the matter.
“Almost all the time, when the judge gives a sentence the full name of the accused is disclosed. So it’s out there in the public domain, who are the accused individuals. For the protection of the child, most times, we will not state the child’s name, but the names of the accused are released and can be published by the media,” she explained.
Currently, only Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, and Belize have sex offender registry laws in some form. However, the Antiguan and Barbuda government just last week referred their National Sex Offender Register Bill, 2022 to a select committee after an opposition legislator, Trevor Walker, raised several concerns including the possibility of infringing on the rights of the sex offender.
The bill, which was tabled in Parliament last Monday proposes that members of the public who wish to know if an individual has been convicted of a sex crime and is on the register must apply to the police commissioner to get that information.
Meantime, Blackmoore noted there are discussions that can be held to increase the current age of consent from 16 to 18 years old.
He said that he’s never been in support of the school of thought presented by some people to have the age of consent lowered to 14 years.
“Some of the merits used to actually bring forward a push towards that sentiment [increase in the age of consent] is that to vote you have to be 18,” he said. “So it is something we can continue to talk and discuss as a country.”
The Minister added that Dominica’s legislation is “very comprehensive in scope” and if all citizens play their part, it would bring about the level of protection and security for minors and other vulnerable groups, which many are calling for.