Former Juvenile Court Magistrate Barbara Cooke-Alleyne has supported calls for the introduction of a sexual offender’s registry but wants the wandering charge for minors removed from the island’s statute books.
Last month, women’s rights advocate Marilyn Rice-Bowen appealed for such a database, saying it was an ideal way to monitor sexual deviants and to protect children, after X-rated videos allegedly involving men and five teenage girls who had gone missing went viral.
“I think we should go that route and have a register for [sexual offenders]. I think it is necessary to know who they are and to make sure that they are not slipping into the educational system and so on. It is important that we have that register. I do think it is time for that,” Cooke-Alleyne told Barbados TODAY.
The Registrar of the Supreme Court said she was also hoping that the wandering charge would be struck from the law books soon.
“It’s of great concern. These are our future, these young women, and we need to find out how we can help them in some way. We do not want to criminalize them for their actions. We still have the wandering charge on our books and I am hoping that will soon be gone [because] they [are] running away from something at home which is something even worse and it is important that we don’t criminalize them.
She added: “[We need] to put things in place to find out exactly what’s happening, have the Welfare going, have the social workers going to find out what’s happening and at some point have another organization that can see how they can assist the Government in providing some place safe for them away from their homes and protect them from themselves.”
Cooke-Alleyne knocked critics of institutions such as the Government Industrial School where troubled students are remanded.
“It’s safer than where they have been. It’s a structured system. Some of them don’t have a structure at home, any boundaries and now there are rules to follow. There are some success stories. It is not the perfect institution. Like any place, you have your problems but there are success stories.
“There are children who leave there and go to university, others leave there with cosmetology behind them, boys leave there [and] become tailors. Not all re-enter the criminal element,” she said.
Cooke-Alleyne said she was looking forward to new legislation, which would essentially govern such behaviour.
“I am certain that the Attorney General will put something in place with the new legislation coming — some different avenues to keep them away from the court system and trying to help them to settle, develop and transform, so you can see a new Barbados with the new Juvenile Act that will come into place by the end of the year I hope.”
Cooke-Alleyne urged society to do its part in helping these troubled young people.
“I would like to implore Barbados to not consider those girls to be a right-off, that they are the worst ever and act as a people that love each other and take care of them, not to point fingers at them and make it harder for them to go on to their adult life. They have done something totally stupid. They have to pay the consequences but let’s try and get them back on track, embrace them and encourage them.”