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Friday 23 March 2018

Padarath: Name sex offenders

FOLLOWING the hanging death of a 31-year-old man -apparently at his own hands – accused of molesting a five-yearold girl, Princes Town Member of Parliament (MP), Barry Padarath, has called for the establishment of a Sex Offender’s Registry as a priority and for the names of repeat sex offenders to be published.

The MP was reacting to the case of Princes Town ex-soldier and security guard, Che Callender, who was found hanging in a cemetery in his area last Friday after almost a week on the run from the law, following the discovery of mobile phone recordings of his acts on the infant by the child’s mother with whom he had a relationship.

Padarath, speaking to Sunday Newsday yesterday, said the incident which occurred in his constituency “really hit home” and he felt a sense of urgency to speak out about it.

Padarath recalled he felt “a great sense of outrage” when he heard about the case of child molestation, noting that over the past few months the country has been witnessing a growing series of similar cases. “Many in the national community have felt a sense of outrage and hopelessness,” he said, pointing out that his is not the first call for a Sex Offender’s Registry and that the previous People’s Partnership administration was putting together the framework for the legislation and empowering the Children’s Authority.

“At this stage I am calling on the Attorney General to prioritise the establishment of it,” he added.

Padarath said a lot of groundwork had already been laid, and he believes, when established, it will be a deterrent to sex offenders.

The Princes Town MP also called for dialogue on the publishing of the names of sex offenders, possibly monthly or quarterly within the media, while also taking into consideration the issue of privacy.

“Once you over 18 and a repeat offender your name should be published,” he stressed.

Padarath expressed hope that the registry will be a priority on the Government’s legislative agenda and for the work of the Attorney General as it will protect not only children but persons generally from sexual abuse.

He said the registry is just one suggestion and he believes that through the Children’s Authority there will be several other ideas.

He recalled that the previous administration tried to empower the Authority including giving it additional resources, and he understands that since they left government, “there has been a strain on the Authority in terms of support”.

“I hope the Government continues to give a greater sense of support so they can carry out their work,” he added.

Padarath also raised the issue in a media release yesterday in which he lamented “that too many children were becoming victims of sexual abuse in Trinidad and Tobago.” He called on Government and civil society “to work hand in hand to protect the nation’s children”.

He stated that former Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, had placed a lot of focus and attention on children’s issues and that the establishment of the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development under her administration was meant to streamline support for the most vulnerable.

He indicated that he was “saddened that the current administration appeared not to have the political will to deal with matters that affected children the most” and that the establishment of a sex offender’s registry would yield “real, tangible results and would be a preventative measure as opposed to reactionary”.

He stated that once the list is compiled there should be a dialogue on publishing the names of sex offenders as he believes, “we should not be protecting the identities of criminals”.

In response yesterday, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi described the calls for a Sex Offender’s Registry as “only one sliver of what the whole solution requires”. He explained that the registry presupposes a system where the offender can be known and that must happen after due process.

He stressed that this requires detection, prosecution, conviction and then establishment of a monitoring system.

“Unless we tackle the first three we just playing a game with words,” he said. Al-Rawi said it was unfortunate that the country is currently gripped by the resurgence of the “underlying horror” which has been a part of society for a long time.

He noted this is why the Government, when previously in opposition, clamoured for children’s legislation to be passed and more particularly operationalised after languishing for far too long.

He recalled that on the day he was sworn in as Attorney General, the first three matters he was concerned with were children- related. He explained that the Government has taken a multi-pronged approach to the issue.

He noted that firstly, they sought to make the laws “technically comprehensive” and in the course of finalising the last changes to the Children and Family Bill they amended 12 other pieces of law which had not been contemplated when first looked at by the last administration.

Secondly, they sought to immediately operationalise the new courts which would receive the legislation to carry it out and they are “far advanced” in securing a physical location and staffing arrangements.

Thirdly, he said they have engaged in “heavy support” of the Children’s Authority and, fourthly, they operationalised the system in support of what was previously called juvenile detention and rehabilitation.

Al-Rawi reported that there have been meetings with the core group of technocrats, the Authority, various ministries, NGOs and specialist consultants several days every week since September. He noted that it is “all hands on deck” and there is coordination among the Judiciary, the ministries that provide support, the Police Service, NGOs, the Office of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs.

“Many weekends spent between September to now and midnight hours burnt assiduously,” he reported.

He explained that they had taken a holistic, comprehensive process focused on operationalisation.

“This is a scourge that cannot be tolerated in any form or fashion and one we have absolute abhorrence for,” he stressed.

On Padarath, he said the Opposition’s cries are “not far from our own” but, in the face of five years of opportunity to have taken a deep multipronged approach, it is now for this Government to “recognise continuity of governance to catalyse production of a solution”.


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