Apr 04, 2021 News
By Renay Sambach
Kaieteur News – Rape and sexual assault are serious crimes, and those types of matters are very sensitive, especially when it involves a child victim. For the past several weeks, headlines that involve sexual offences were often seen in the news.
Rape can be defined as, when a person penetrates someone’s vagina, anus or mouth with a penis, without their consent, while sexual assault is when someone penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth, with any part of the body other than the penis, without the person’s consent.
Other forms of sexual assault are, someone touching another person in a sexual way without their consent; causing someone to touch the perpetrator in a sexual way, causing someone to touch someone else in a sexual way, all without the person’s consent.
This article is aimed at bringing awareness to the seriousness of the offence and the penalties that are attached to the crimes.
What have been observed is that in most of the recent sexual assault cases, the alleged perpetrators are relatives. What is also noticeable is that those cases came out of Region One.
Rape or sexual assault doesn’t only happen at home, or are committed by relatives. Rape or sexual assault can also occur in the workplace, can occur within marriages and relationships.
Sex and sexual acts are about consent, and if you have forced your partner or your partner had forced you into having sex with them, it is rape, or sexual assault. Not because you are in a relationship with someone means you are obligated to have sex or perform sex acts with him or her. Without your consent, it is an offence. In addition, the circumstances surrounding how the consent is given must be taken into consideration. It should be noted that there is no consent: when a minor is involved, when there is consumption of alcohol or drugs, or when mental incapacity is a factor.
Statutory rape is having sex with a minor, both parties agreed to the sex but the minor cannot consent to sex. Also, consent or belief that there was consent cannot be inferred by reason of silence or lack of physical resistance.
However, rape and sexual assault are bailable offences but only at the Magistrate’s discretion.
Rape is an indictable matter and when the matter is brought before the court, the alleged perpetrator is not required to plead (guilty or not guilty) to the crime. The matter would first go to the Magistrate’s Court for a preliminary inquiry (PI). A PI is done by the Magistrate. The prosecution would produce the evidence to the court and at the end, the Magistrate can either commit the alleged perpetrator to stand trial for rape in the High Court or dismiss the case because of insufficient evidence or other reasons.
Someone who is found guilty of rape is liable on conviction to serve life imprisonment.
Whereas, for sexual assault matters, the matter is done summarily. Meaning when the matter is brought before the court, the Magistrate will conduct a trial and the alleged perpetrator can plead either guilty or not guilty to the charge after it is read to them. A person is liable, upon summary conviction, to five years imprisonment. However, sexual assault can also be laid indictably, and upon indictment conviction, a person is liable to face 10 years imprisonment.
SEXUAL OFFENCES COURT
With the sensitive nature of sexual offences, the Sexual Offences Court was created with the alleged victims in mind, to protect them from the further trauma of seeing the accused, while testifying.
The court’s victim-friendly features have been aiding with the successful prosecution of rape cases.
The Sexual Offences Court was established on November 13, 2017, and the court is housed in Court Six of the Supreme Court and represents the commitment of the judiciary to be responsive to the concerns raised in society about the conduct of trials of sexual offences cases.
The court is equipped with audio-visual devices to aid the testimony of witnesses. There are two screens in the courtroom that provide the complainants with a more suitable setting to face their alleged perpetrators.
Since the specialised court came into operation, a number of trials have been disposed of and several persons have been convicted for sexual offence crimes.
The court has a panel of eminent judges, including Justice Simone Morris-Ramlall, Justice Joanne Barlow, Justice Navindra Singh, Justice James Bovell-Drakes and Justice Brassington Reynolds, whose functions are rotated.
Before the Sexual Offences Court was established, a large number of sexual offences cases were nolle-prosequi (dismissed), mainly because the alleged victims were unwilling to testify before the High Court.
Reports indicate that the average length of a trial is four days. The longest, so far, has been eight days and the shortest three days, and if the process is not handled carefully, it can pose secondary trauma to the victims.
Due to the sensitive nature of sexual offences cases, the victims are often terrified of reporting their experiences to the police. For those who report their matter and the alleged perpetrators are charged, the case would usually move at a slow pace through the court system. When the matters do reach the court, most victims may decline to continue with the matter due to the time it takes and how traumatising the experience can be.
As a result, the sexual offences courtroom is equipped with two screens, which help to provide the complainants with a more suitable setting to face their alleged perpetrators.
With this purpose-built facility in operation, jurists have reported that more sexual assault victims are finding the courage to seek justice via the courts.
During the proceedings, judges are required to take the evidence manually, but there is a built in recording system operating in the court as well.
As promised, during May 2019, a sexual offences court was established in New Amsterdam, Berbice and during September 2019, another sexual offences court was established in Essequibo to the tune of $17.4M.
According to reports, 37-years-old, Thurston Semple, was remanded to prison when he appeared in court for his fourth rape charge.
The alleged serial rapist of Lot 5A Tucville Terrace, Georgetown, is accused of raping four sex workers during 2017 to 2021.
In his most recent case, Semple picked up the woman and agreed to pay her to have sex with him. However, while at Semple’s home, after the first round, the woman reportedly told Semple she only had one more condom and if he did not ejaculate, she would leave. The woman’s caution reportedly caused Semple to become annoyed. He then reportedly armed himself with a knife, proceeded to orally and vaginally rape the woman. He also sodomised her.
In August 2018, a New Amsterdam man was found guilty of raping a physically challenged girl.
The man, Wazir Ali, of Bermine Housing Scheme, New Amsterdam, Berbice, was convicted of raping the 17-year-old in 2015.
According to the facts of that case, Ali, who was tasked with transporting church members, including the teen whom he raped after dropping off all the members.
In another case, a police officer was placed on $150,000 bail for allegedly raping his 13-year-old cousin.
It is alleged that during the month of December 2019, in Georgetown, he raped a child under the age of 16 while knowing, or could reasonably have been expected to know, that she is his cousin.
According to reports, the child told investigators that during December 2019, after she exited the shower and was heading to the bedroom, the defendant entered the bedroom a few moments later and raped her.
The defendant had made another attempt to sexually assault the child, but she was able to record a short video of him trying to pull off her pants. The matter was reported, the defendant was arrested and subsequently charged for the offence.
During March 2021, Ivor Laud was found guilty of raping a 10-year-old girl. It was reported that Laud and the victim are known to each other and lived in the same neighbourhood.
According to reports, on the first occasion that the incident occurred, the accused called the child over to his house and told her that he had something for her, so she followed him into his house. At the time, the accused only had one bedroom.
They then went into the bedroom and there the accused lifted her up and put her to lie on the bed. He then pulled down her pants and underwear and took off his pants and underwear.
The victim reportedly saw the man’s erect penis, which he instructed her to hold before later pushing it into her vagina. Afterwards, the victim reported that she saw whitish substance on his penis and then he told her to go home and wash up, so she did.
According to the information, this continued from 2015 to 2017, where the accused would put his penis into her vagina and he would suck her vagina sometimes.
The last time was in August 2017, where the accused sucked the complainant’s vagina at his house in his bedroom. He would have called her over and she went.
When the incidents would happen, no one would be at his home. At the time, he had a wife and children. The matter later came to light and the accused was arrested and charged with rape.
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