Sex offender registry facing difficult road

There is much work needed on a proposal for Cayman’s first sex offender registry before it becomes reality, according to Attorney General Sam Bulgin.

The comments before Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee Friday gave an indication that proposed legislation to enact such a register was likely to be delayed further, if not altogether quashed.

A draft of the Sex Offender Registry Bill (2009) was rolled out by then-Health Minister Anthony Eden in February.

Under the plan, convicted sex offenders would be required to register their names, home addresses, workplace and details of any property they own.

The public would not have access to the Cayman Islands sex offender registry, according to the proposal that was released in February.

In addition to crimes such as rape and defilement, that proposal makes unnatural offences as defined under the Penal Code, i.e. sodomy, a sex offence for which one would have to register. Administering drugs to a person, presumably in a date rape situation, is also considered a registering offence.

In addition to those convicted of sex crimes, individuals who are found not criminally responsible for sex offences on account of a mental disorder would also have to be placed on the registry.

Despite a considerable amount of debate on the issue during this spring’s political campaign, Mr. Bulgin said only six people bothered to send in comments on the draft bill during the public comment period earlier this year.

The attorney general cautioned Legislative Assembly members Friday that careful consideration was needed before moving ahead with a sex offender registry in Cayman, particularly if parts of the register are to be made public.

Mr. Bulgin said he has heard comments in certain quarters about ‘the utility of such a measure in a small country.’

‘Is someone who lives in Bodden Town going to register with the police station in West Bay because they are going to spend the weekend there?’ Mr. Bulgin said. ‘The question is whether it is workable.’

Mr. Bulgin said he was concerned about simply cutting and pasting legislation from larger jurisdictions such as the US or the UK.

‘Even though we have numerous nationalities here, most people tend to know people.’

According to the draft proposal, a convicted sex offender would have to re-register with the administering government agency once a year until their registration requirements legally expire. They would also have to provide updated information within 48 hours if their address, employment or any other personal data provided changed.

Failing to re-register or register a change would result in a prison sentence of up to five years on conviction.

How long someone must stay on the sex offender registry depends on the length of a sentence following conviction, according to the draft proposal.

Those who are sentenced to more than 30 months in prison would be kept on the registry for life; a prison term between six months and 30 months would mean ten years on the registry; six months or less in prison means seven years on the registry; and those sex offenders who receive a non-custodial sentence would have to register for five years.

Juvenile sex offenders who are cautioned under the Youth Justice Law (2003) would have to be kept on the registry for 30 months. Otherwise, registration periods would generally be one-half of the required registering periods for adult offenders.

Those listed on the sex offender registry must notify law enforcement agencies of their intention to leave the Cayman Islands at least three days prior to doing so, according to the draft bill. They must provide travel itineraries, accommodation and telephone contacts, and the reason they are travelling. If the travel is for an emergency, notification must occur within 24 hours.

Travel within the Cayman Islands is also restricted. The sex offender must provide similar details to the registry as they would for out of country trips, but the notification period only need be 24 hours before departure.