Independent Senator Paul Richards

Independent Senator Paul Richards yesterday said that while he agreed with the principle of a sex offenders registry, he accepted that such a registry is not always effective.

Richards, speaking during the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill in Senate, said the bill was packed with necessary punitive measures but lacked the provisions for treatment of offenders and families of the offenders.

Richards cited international data which showed that 59 per cent of sexual assaults were committed by people known to the victim. Some 34 per cent of offences were committed by a family member while only seven per cent were committed by a stranger, he added.

“How should that inform how we make law? Because in some instances, it is clear that the perpetrator may end up in close proximity to someone close to them or an acquaintance, we have to really look at those possibilities,” Richards said.

“It is important to note that after psychiatric evaluations, not all offenders are going to benefit from treatment and rehabilitation

“Some simply need to be locked away forever.”

But some offenders, Richards added, benefit from rehabilitative measures.

Richards cited data from the Department of Justice in the United States, which stated, inter alia, that registration and public publication of sex offenders did not have an effect on recidivism.

“We continue to talk rehabilitation but seem unable to walk the talk. We don’t seem to have a national philosophy toward rehabilitation and a comprehensive approach to restorative justice,” he said.

He said that sexual violence was sensitive and has been happening for decades in T&T.

“We are just more exposed to it now through the media,” he said.

Richards provided at least two solutions outside of a public registr,y including electronic monitoring of offenders and psychometric testing.

“This may prove to be much more effective than public sex registers, as it continually monitors the offender,” he said.

He said the psychometric testing would provide data that corroborates with physiological indices for arousal.

Richards said this type of testing is used in 1,400 hospitals, clinics and agencies around the world.

“In many instances, the reason we are going through this process today is because sex offenders in most instances will come back out in society. Do we want an offender back in society simply to monitor them? Or do we want an offender to come back into society, having gone through some sort of rehabilitative programme that moves them in the direction of being less likely to re-offend,” Richards said.

“That is the question we have to ask ourselves.”

He added, “Just having them serve their sentences and then come back into society, where we have to monitor them without even a modicum of them being exposed to some sort of rehabilitative process is counterproductive.”

He said this would leave people on eggshells, just waiting for them to re-offend.

Richards called for the rehabilitation programme to be mandatory.

“To get them back in line with what is expected of them in society,” he said.