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Senate to debate Sex Offenders Registry today

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, October 12, 2012    

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THE Senate is expected to debate, and possibly pass, the Sexual Offences (Registration of Sex Offenders) Regulations 2012 when it meets at Gordon House this morning.

But it is likely that the regulations will face some resistance from senators who believe that access to the information on sex offenders is too limited.

The process of accessing the information is very unlike the predictions which followed the passage of the substantive Act in 2009, which suggested that communities would be sensitised to the presence of sexual offenders in their midst.

The Sexual Offences Act regulations, which were tabled last Friday in the Upper House, have a three-tiered information system which severely limits access to the information and requires persons employed by the registry to sign a declaration of secrecy.

The regulations state that "all information in the register and registry shall be secret and confidential, and the registrar shall only allow access to the register and registry in accordance with (certain) regulations".

The application must be made in writing and provide information necessary to enable the registrar to "identify the information requested".

The information concerning sex offenders will be divided into three tiers.

Tier one information comprises a photograph of the sex offender taken on the date the offender reports to the registration centre; name and aliases; addresses; date of birth; specified offences; and the sex and date of birth of the victim.

Tier two will have names and addresses of the offender's parents; addresses of every place the offender resided as a child; name and address of closest kin; age at the time of the crime; race, sex, height, hair and eye colour; TRN; distinguishing features and fingerprints.

Also included in Tier two are the offenders' occupation; name and address of places of employment; area of work and travel; name and address of educational institution where the offender is enrolled; particulars of the conviction; and history of treatment for mental or personality disorders.

Tier three information includes the name of the victim; address of the victim; and telephone numbers and e-mail addresses at which the victim may be contacted.

However, Tier one information will be limited to the police; professional counsellors; prospective employers and employees; persons managing educational institutions connected to the individual; persons managing facilities for the care and treatment of sex offenders; information needed by the Ministry of National Security for statistical purposes; and a parent, guardian, caregiver, nearest relative or persons with legitimate interest sufficient to justify provision of the information.

In considering the application for Tier one information, the registrar will have to look at whether the offender poses a risk of harm to vulnerable persons, or if disclosure is necessary to protect a vulnerable person.

Tier two information will only be provided to the police, professional counsellors or persons whom the court considers as having legitimate interest, sufficient to justify being given the information.

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