Sex offender petition may be considered

A petition asking the Cayman
Islands government to consider creating a publicly available sex offender
registry has been completed, but government officials have apparently refused
to accept it thus far.

According to local resident Sandra
Catron, who has been circulating the petition since 2008, neither elected
ministers nor representatives from government portfolios have agreed to receive
a copy of the petition.

That may be about to change.

On Monday, Ms Catron said she
received a response from the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs that
indicated officials would accept the petition.

Ms Catron said she has asked
numerous times to present the petition to both the Ministry of Community
Affairs and also to the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs. 

“I also contacted the governor but
have not heard back from his office, either,” Ms Catron said Monday.

Community Affairs Minister Mike
Adam said he was aware the ministry had received enquiries about the petition
early in his term, but he said the matter was referred to the portfolio.

“Maybe now that I’ve been given
gender affairs we can take a look at it again,” Mr. Adam said. “I can’t see any reason why not to.”

Ms Catron said her petition has
more than 1,200 signatures from individuals supporting a public sex offender
registry. 

“Basically, everybody seems to be
passing the buck,” said Ms Catron, who ran unsuccessfully for a Bodden Town
legislative assembly seat in 2009.  “The
only time that this seems to become pertinent is when a child has been molested.” 

“The petition is not just the
registry itself. It’s about education, making sure these children have proper
advocacy when they are in the court system; making sure these children get the psychological attention that they need,” she said. “These are all issues that
don’t get the attention they deserve in our community.”

The Cayman Islands government has
considered the issue previously, the most recent effort being a draft of the
Sex Offender Registry Bill (2009) that was rolled out by former Health Minister
Anthony Eden in February 2009.

Late last year, Attorney General
Sam Bulgin said a lot of work would be needed before Cayman’s first sex
offender registry became reality – if indeed that were ever to happen.

Under the bill produced in 2009,
convicted sex offenders would be required to register their names, home
addresses, workplace and details of any property they own. However, the general
public would not have access to the registry.

“I say put it to a vote, let the
people decide,” Ms Catron said. “I personally am of the view that the majority
of the people would benefit from this being a public registry.” 

In addition to crimes such as rape
and defilement, the 2009 proposal made 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 be placed on the registry.

Despite a considerable amount of
debate on the issue during the 2009 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 has cautioned
the Legislative Assembly that careful consideration is 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 in 2009 that 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 before the LA in October
2009. “The question is whether it is workable.”

Mr. Bulgin told lawmakers 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 noncustodial 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.

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