Mom charged

A parent became the first person in Trinidad and Tobago to be charged with the offence under the Sexual Offences Act. She appeared yesterday in the San Fernando Magistrates’ Court to answer the charge.

The mother, from Cotton Hill, Bonne Aventure, Gasparillo, appeared before Magistrate Alicia Chankar on the charge that she knew her 15-year-old daughter was having sex, but failed to report the matter to a police officer. The case came up last week Friday, and the 52 year-old mother has not been called upon to plead, because the police have to seek advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions, (DPP) on whether to prosecute the woman summarily, or indictably.

A summary trial is adjudicated upon by a magistrate and the sentence imposed does not exceed ten years. Indictable offences are heard in the High Court by a judge and jury.

Attorney Sharmela Michelle Rampaul, who is representing the woman, said yesterday that the charge against her client is unprecedented, and she has since been seeking information from the court on how such a case is to be prosecuted by the police.

Yesterday, Rampaul went to the Magistrates’ Court with the docket bearing the charge, to enquire whether the allegation against the mother, had been laid indictably, or summarily.

“This is new to me, and even the magistrate expressed the view that it was first time she has seen such a case in the courts she sits in,” Rampaul said. The attorney added, “I do not know whether I should ask my client to plead.”

According to Section 31 (1) of the Sexual Offences Act, any person who is a parent or guardian, has actual custody, charge or control of a minor, and who has reasonable grounds for believing that a sexual offence has been committed in respect of that minor, shall report the grounds for his or her belief, to a police officer as soon as reasonably practicable.

A medical doctor, or a nurse, is also bound to make such a report, if upon examination of a child who is below 18, it is discovered that he or she was sexually active.

If found guilty, the Sexual Offences Act imposes a penalty of a fine of $15,000 or imprisonment for a term of seven years.

The magistrate has the power to impose both a fine and imprisonment.

The case against the mother, who has seven children, will come up for hearing again on December 12.


"Mom charged"

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