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Thorne to AG: Amend ‘vague’ sex offences law to protect children

by Shamar Blunt
2 min read
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Opposition Leader Ralph Thorne has urged Attorney General Dale Marshall to amend the Sexual Offences Act, a year and a half after the High Court struck down the criminalisation of buggery but also included indecent exposure to children.

In December 2022, Justice Michelle Weekes ruled that Sections 9 and 12 of the Act, which criminalise buggery, were unconstitutional and declared them null and void. After the ruling, the attorney general noted that Section 12 concerns, among other things, indecent sexual conduct with minors.

Thorne, who was speaking during Tuesday’s debate on the Joint Select Committee’s report on the Child Protection Bill and Child Justice Bill, said the situation within the Sexual Offences Act cannot be allowed to continue if the government is serious about protecting children.

“We came here today under a promise from the honourable member for St Michael South, that sometimes these matters need to be elevated beyond partisan borders,” said Thorne. “When we are talking about the rights of children, we abandon partisan rancour and partisan debate, and we speak for the children.

“Section 12 of the Sexual Offences Act was intended to offer protection to children against predators, and the offence was called gross indecency. A High Court was forced in a correct application of the law to remove that from the statute…. With that removal was an expectation that the government would hastily correct it. The irony is that we come here today talking about children’s protection and there is this vast hole in the Sexual Offences Act of this country that exposes children.”

The opposition leader stressed that the court could not be faulted for its decision, given the unconstitutional and ambiguous way in which the law criminalised homosexuality, and as such, it was the government’s responsibility to amend the legislation.

Thorne continued: “The High Court felt and knew and correctly did so, that if it struck down one subsection, it had to strike down the other subsections. All of those offences were placed into one section, and all that this government needs to do in protection of the child is to simply rewrite it.

“As the High Court said, it was vague, it was ambiguous, and it was uncertain. That is not a task that is beyond this government. That is certainly not a task that is beyond this attorney general. I cannot attend any debate that relates to the rights, the interests and the entitlements of a child while this matter remains unattended by this government.”

 

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