Sex Offenders Registry Bill proves controversial and is sent to special parliamentary committee for review

A Special Parliamentary Committee has been established to review the proposed Sex Offenders Registry Bill, following debate by a number of persons and concerns raised by MP Trevor Walker and the Speaker of the House.

The Committee will review the Bill carefully before it goes back to the House for debate and passing.

Heading the Special Committee is Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin. Its members include Jamale Pringle, Leader of the Opposition and MP for All Saints East and St. Luke; Trevor Walker, Member for Barbuda; Dean Jonas, Minister of Social Transformation and MP for St. George; Daryll Matthew, Education Minister and MP for St. John’s Rural South; and Maria Browne, Housing Minister and MP for St. John’s Rural East.

A special invitation will also be made to churches, the Antigua and Barbuda Bar Association, and other interest groups to join the discussions, as the Government attempts to establish a registry of convicted sex offenders.

Walker expressed concern about a number of the clauses in the Bill, citing sections that speak to privacy and to reporting conditions when the offender is travelling.

He was also concerned about the $25,000 sum that would be levied on persons who fail to comply with the reporting section of the proposed law.

Meanwhile, Speaker of the House Sir Gerald Watt, Q.C. also had some reservations about the Bill, cautioning the Government that it should be prepared to face legal challenges as a result.

Watt said he is not opposed to the registry; but it does not seem to have been properly thought through. This could result in the law not being effective for the purposes for which the Bill was drafted, he noted.

It was Sir Gerald who suggested that the Bill first be put to a Special Committee for review before it is debated in the Parliament.

However, Attorney-General Benjamin quoted sections of the Constitution that give protection to the controversial legislation.

In spite of this, he agreed to establish the Special Committee, since the Government is open to suggestions, he said, and the law must be developed to suit the society.