SUNDAY, JULY 22: A sex offenders’ register in Bermuda open only to child-care workers has never had a request for information, an OBA candidate said on Saturday.
And Suzann Roberts-Holshouser called for Government to introduce a register open to the public to cut the risk of sex abuse for children.
Ms Roberts-Holshouser, the Opposition candidate for St George’s South, was speaking after Attorney General and Minister of Justice Kim Wilson was reported to have said that Bermuda could not establish a public register because the island follows English law.
But Ms Roberts-Holshouser said that England and Wales already had a system where people with reasonable grounds for suspicion could contact police and be provided background details.
Known as Sarah’s Law, after Sarah Payne, an eight-year-old girl murdered by a convicted sex offender in England in 2000, the scheme became operational in 2008.
Ms Roberts-Holshouser said Bermuda should find a way to set up a register similar to those in the US which could be used by the public to check on the background of people with access to children – or bring Bermuda into line with practice in England and Wales.
Ms Wilson was reported as saying that English law, which is the basis for Bermudian legislation, did not allow for a public register.
But Ms Roberts-Holshouser said: “She said that we follow English law, which goes out of its way to protect the individual’s right to privacy. English law does not allow a public register of sexual offenders and therefore Bermuda’s law cannot either.”
She added: “Bermuda has a register of sex offenders ... the difference between Bermuda and Britain is that here only child care professionals are entitled to obtain an offender’s record.
“No child care professional has ever done that, apparently, so it could be said that our register is more or less useless.
“Whether it is even properly kept up is not known.
“Bermuda’s choice is not simply to allow for a public register or not, as Senator Wilson intimated. We also have the ability to amend our law to bring it into line with current best practice in the UK.”
She added that she was “strongly in favour” of a fully public register and said Bermuda should be able to find a legal route to establishing one.
In England and Wales, figures for 24 of the 43 police forces showed that Sarah’s Law – the Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme - had been used 878 times between 2008 and January last year.
Police said checks had identified 84 registered sex offenders and police said that the scheme had not led to feared vigilante attacks on convicted paedophiles.