The Legislative Assembly is set to consider some targeted amendments to the Penal Code that would create eight new offenses for sex offenders who target children.
The new offenses contained in Clause 5 of the bill include:
Sexual communication with a child
Arranging to meet a child following sexual communication
Meeting a child following sexual communication
Procuration of a child for a sexual activity
Causing a child to watch a sexual activity
Engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child
Inviting a child to participate in sexual activity
Abuse of position of trust
The bill, if passed, would make it a criminal offense for any adult to engage in “sexual communication” with a child. Several high profile cases have highlighted the fact that there were severe gaps in the ability for police to charge perpetrators appropriately under existing laws. Currently, charges are traditionally brought under the ICT legislation as misuse of an ICT network to cause harassment, alarm or distress.
The legislation will introduce and address the act of “grooming” young victims. Grooming is when someone builds an emotional connection with a child to gain their trust for the purposes of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or trafficking. Children and young people can be groomed online or face-to-face, by a stranger or by someone they know – for example, a family member, friend or professional.
Kevin Ashworth, manager of the RCIPS Family Support Unit, said anyone sending sexual texts or requests for explicit pictures from children could be charged under the new legislation. He used the Errington Webster case to demonstrate how a perpetrator cultivated a relationship with the 13-year-old victim to later take advantage of that relationship of trust.
“There are patterns of behavior that are not illegal per se, but along with text messages and other evidence, we can build a bigger picture,”
Inspector Ashworth recently told other media.
The bill will also amend the Penal Code to make sexual harm protection orders retrospective so that they cover persons currently servicing a sentence such as Webster. The law also introduces some mandatory minimum offense and states that:
“The sentences in respect of these new offenses range from four to twelve years with the offense of abuse of a position of trust carrying a mandatory minimum sentence of four years where the offender pleads guilty or six years upon conviction.”
Long-time advocate, Sandra Hill, stated that she is very pleased with the proposed amendments:
“I feel that this has been a long time coming. Although I would have wished for a mandatory minimum sentences for ALL sexual offenses relating to children this will surely address a good number of them. Everyone needs to contact their MLAs and vocalize their support of this bill”.
Members of the Legislative Assembly will be considering the bill at the upcoming session in Cayman Brac starting September 5th.
Parents are reminded to be vigilant when it comes to reporting any suspected cases of sexual, physical and emotional abuse to the appreciate authorities including the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub at [email protected].
Read the proposed bill here.