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Rising Cases Of Sex Crimes Need Proactive Approach By All

Rising Cases Of Sex Crimes Need Proactive Approach By All
Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Mosese Korovou and DPP lawyer Seini Puamau making submissions to the Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights on March 29,2018. Photo: Fonua Talei
April 03
15:46 2018

Statistics of sex offences collected by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) since 2014 indicate a real need for a proactive whole of government approach to the rising incidences of sex crimes in Fiji.

In its submission to the Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights last Thursday the DPP’s Office shared the view that if passed into law and effectively implemented the Registration of Sex Offenders Bill would likely provide an effective mechanism to address the rising incidences of sex crimes. It would also effectively deter would be offenders.

On behalf of the DPP’s Office, Seini Puamau recommended that the Ministry of Health be designated as a “specified agency” under the Bill.

“They deal with survivors of sex crimes as patients and in addition treat people across Fiji,” Ms Puamau said.

“As such, they ought to be included in the list of specified agencies that may legitimately receive information from the register in order to either monitor the whereabouts of a sex offender, or to verify personal information reported by a sex offender as examples.”

Ms Puamau urged caution in respect to Clause 3.

“As the provision currently stands, there is scope for a perpetrator to argue that the registration process breaches their right to be presumed innocent of sex crimes that occur after they have been convicted and registered,” she said.

Ms Puamau suggested that a modification of the language in the clause could prevent such allegations from arising.

She also questioned the committee if it was right to enter a child offender into the register for the rest of the child’s life.

She said this was the DPP’s predominant concern, adding that children under the age of 18 were extremely protected by law bodies in Fiji.

“And this provision at Clause 5 runs counter to that framework. But if there is intent because of the objective of this Act then of course that is properly within the purview of Parliament to determine that. It is a consideration we would like this honourable body to look into.”

Clause 5 of the Bill states that the Bill applies to a person who has been convicted of a sexual offence, unless the person was under the age of 12 years at the time the sexual offence was committed.

Committee chairperson Ashneel Sudhakar said the intention was to curb the rising incidence of sexual offences.

“Once a child is in the register it gives the message out to the public that they all will be treated the same,” Mr Sudhakar said.

However, he said there were some conflicting interests that the committee had to balance out. Ms Puamau said a child between 10 to 14 years old was presumed in law to be doli incapax meaning they were presumed not to know that what they did was wrong.

Assistant DPP Mosese Korovou said children in this age group could still be charged for an offence and it was up to the courts to rule on their fate.

Edited by Percy Kean

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