By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
GIVING convicted sex offenders the same legal rights around children that others have exposes a major flaw in the Bahamas’ legal system, a well known attorney said yesterday.
Christina Galanos’ statements come a week after some expressed outrage at news that convicted sex offender Randy Fraser has been installed as pastor elect at his new ministry, Palms of Victory Kingdom Ministry (POVKM).
Ms Galanos, who heads CG Chambers, said from a legal perspective, nothing exists ensuring Fraser can’t have the same freedom around children as he had before he was convicted.
“In a lot of instances, paedophiles in particular have deep-seated psychological issues, which ought to be adequately addressed before they are unleashed back into the society,” she added. “As I have said countless of times, the major flaw in our present system is that Her Majesty’s Prison, for the most part, does not have any programmes and/or facilities in place for the rehabilitation of offenders. In the circumstances, we cannot assume that putting a person in lock down for three or five or even ten years will act as a deterrent to them re-offending.”
She said: “A psychiatric evaluation and report is usually never done on a particular inmate or accused person unless the court orders it and even when the court does order it, it is usually for the exercise of sentencing and even then, it usually takes months to be produced before the court. However, there appears to be no consistent monitoring of the thought processes and the progress and/or decline of convicted sexual offenders while they are serving their time and before their release. Therein lies the problem.”
Ms Galanos said in her view, while rehabilitation is important for all criminals, it is particularly important for those convicted of sexual offences.
“I say this because firstly, victims of sexual violence sometimes become perpetrators of sexual violence – in that regard these activities have the tendency of becoming a vicious cycle; secondly, the trauma that one usually experiences as a result of being raped or sexually molested is far reaching – they often become extremely withdrawn, they lack self esteem, there is the risk that they may never be able to have a healthy intimate relationship because of their psychological issues.”
Ms Galanos noted that according to the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act, after a person is convicted of a sexual offense, he or she may be required by the court to see a psychiatrist for assistance during an allotted time period. Their failure to conform, according to the Act, could result in a fine of $5000, six months imprisonment or both.
Ms Galanos said in her view, this penalty “does not in any way shape or form address what psychiatric issues the person may have. And so while the law does make some provision for the rehabilitation of sex offenders, it is my belief that it does not go far enough.”
She added that laws should be amended to ensure convicted sex offenders attend counseling regularly after prison and that if they fail to abide by such laws, they should face greater penalties than what is currently on the books.
As for a convicted sex offender being allowed to open a church, Ms Galanos said: “If a psychiatrist or a psychologist is convicted of the offence of sex with a dependent, chances are high that that person would lose their license to practice as a certified professional in our country – opening up or conducting any psychiatric services would most certainly not be an option. For the life of me, I do not understand how a pastor of a church, who in this society usually plays an even more significant role than a psychiatrist, does not lose his ability to open up a church upon being convicted of a sex crime.”