Sexual Offence legislation to improve paper committal process
— Minister Webster
The Ministry of Human Services and Social Security is working feverishly with the Attorney General’s Chamber to complete the amendments to the Sexual Offences Act of 2009. These amendments are expected to be tabled when Parliament resumes in October.
Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Jennifer Webster, speaking on a television programme “The Factor”, said that this Act was the first of its kind to be laid in Guyana’s Parliament. However, a couple of cases that have gone to the High Court were thrown out because of certain technicalities in the law.
As a result, there have been a lot of criticisms from the public with regards to this piece of legislation as well as a lot of calls for amendments to be made.
One of the key amendments is the right of the accused to be able to respond to the witness statement that is laid by the prosecution. This is a new procedure in the paper committal process which is stated in the Sexual Offences Act.
Minister Webster noted that one of the significant features of this Act is that it makes provision for a register of perpetrators who have been found guilty of sexual offences (registered sex offenders) by the court, to be maintained and publicised.
This system, which has been adopted in several other jurisdictions around the world, is designed to help people recognise and keep track of sex predators more easily.
“There are a number of social issues such as sexual abuse and domestic violence, that affect our people and these issues must be addressed…Today there are more cases being reported than ever before. Long ago these issues were swept under the carpet; people never paid attention to them,” the Minister said.
The Child Care and Protection Agency, since its establishment, has dealt with numerous cases, ensuring that the needs of Guyana’s children are properly met and that their rights and privileges are not violated or ignored.
The Human Services Ministry as a whole, in spite of constraints, continues to strive to ensure that its interventions are timely and that people are properly sensitised.
To this end, the Ministry has also been working closely with the Guyana Police Force to deal frontally, with cases of abuse and domestic violence, for which the Ministry has taken a zero-tolerance stance.
The force has dedicated special officers to whom these cases are referred and special desks have been set up at various police stations across the country to address these issues in an expeditious manner.
“Once these cases are reported, we will do the complete investigation and try to get as much information as possible to ensure that we get a prosecution and we work closely with the police in this regard,” Minister Webster said. (GINA)