by Linda Straker
Clarice Modeste, Member of Parliament for the constituency of St Mark has praised the decision by the Ministry of Legal Affairs to make rape one of the offences that will not be removed from a person’s criminal records under the new Rehabilitation of Offenders Bill, which received the approval of the House of Representatives on Friday.
“I am very happy to see that those who commit that heinous crime rape, will not be provided with opportunity for it to be removed from their records,” she told the House while contributing to the Bill presented by Legal Affairs Minister Elvin Nimrod.
Data from the court shows that almost 50% of indictable matters before the various High Court sessions are for sexually related offences with rape among the top 3 offences. In recent times, more and persons have begun discussing the matter of sexual offences committed against children, with the public recommending that it become a non-bailable offence.
Modeste, who is a medical doctor by profession, said that whereas as a society we believe in rehabilitation, some offences should never be removed from the records of those who committed it regardless of the age in which it was committed.
Other offences that will not be removed from someone’s record are murder; voluntary manslaughter; robbery with violence; arson and any indictable offence carrying a penalty including imprisonment for a term of 15 years or more.
It will also not be offered to convictions where the following sentences have been imposed: a sentence of imprisonment for life and a sentence of imprisonment for a term exceeding 5 years.
In presenting the Bill, Nimrod said that it seeks to redress certain impediments which are experienced by many offenders, especially those who committed criminal offences while they were juveniles.
“These offenders later discover that their criminal records significantly impede their abilities to secure certain employment opportunities; to obtain certain visas to travel abroad either to reside or to access educational opportunities and to ensure their own self-satisfaction,” he said.
The Bill was also supported by Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, who told the court that he had seen many young people lose good opportunities due to certain minor criminal offences committed when they were juveniles.
The Upper House or Senate is scheduled to approve the Bill next Friday.