Five men appeared in court with the last 24 hours charged in separate incidents for sexual assault, rape and the sexual penetration of girls.
In one of the cases, the T&T Police Service said a 35-year-old man was denied bail when he appeared before a Chaguanas magistrate yesterday on one count of sexual penetration. The accused, a labourer from Chagaunas, is said to have a three-month-old baby with a 16-year-old girl. He will reappear on March 19. Police only discovered the details of the case after the girl went to a health facility and told medical practitioners there she believed she was suffering from postpartum depression. She told health officials she recently had a baby who is now three-months-old and was living with a man with whom she was sexually active.
In another incident, a 34-year-old forklift operator was charged with raping an 18-year-old woman who has a mental disability on March 9 at her home. Police said the accused, Richard Jeremiah, was arrested and charged on Wednesday and appeared before a San Fernando magistrate yesterday.
A stepfather also appeared before a Princes Town magistrate yesterday, charged with sexual penetration and sexual grooming of a child. The 11-year-old girl told her mother about the alleged acts after she was found in a compromising position. The man’s bail was set $150,000 with a surety.
A 19-year-old man, who was caught by police having sexual intercourse with a 15-year-old girl on the shoulder of the Sir Solomon Hochoy Highway, was granted bail with surety.
An Arima teenager also reported to police she was raped by her ex-boyfriend after he went to her house, told her he had a gun and threatened to harm her if she did not leave with him. The ex-boyfriend took the girl, 17, to two different locations where he sexually assaulted and raped her.
Also, a 35-year-old former Special Reserved Police has been granted $200,000 bail, charged with possession of child pornography.
Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic church is also probing claims of misconduct made against a priest. In a statement issued yesterday, the Archdiocese of Port-of-Spain said a probe is underway into claims made by a woman against an official. The allegations were reportedly circulating on social media after the woman took to a platform to make the claims.
Commenting on the incidents yesterday, former independent senator and child activist Diana Mahabir-Wyatt told Guardian Media she was “tired” of society’s failure to protect each other against this type of crime.
“We decry the situation over and over and over again. One of the things that we know and the police keep telling us is that we cannot have a policeman in every house,” she said during a telephone interview.
According to Mahabir-Wyatt, most rapists are repeat offenders.
“I just wish that anybody who commits rape could be put in jail and part of their sentence, as is compulsory in other countries, they have to undergo therapy, whether it’s for a year, three years or five years, but they have to get psychoanalysed,” she suggested.
Attorney and cofounder of the Operation Global Sex Offender Registry Jonathan Bhagan meanwhile noted social media comments over the access to bail by persons charged with sexual offences. He said while he understands the frustration of the public on this matter, he believes the issue is bigger than bail access.
“Bail is a promise to show up at the trials and the law provides that these people are innocent until proven guilty,” Bhaggan said.
“It is assumed that once a person has no serious offences, they are going to get a fairly reasonable bail. They are not being punished by bail.”
He said, however, that the issue of bail should not be the focus in this discussion.
“What the population need to focus on is not the issue of bail but what I think the solution is, is for child sex predators should have GPS bracelets and they should pay for their own bracelets, so in case they going to rape again while they are outside, the police will have some way of tracking and prevent it,” Bhagan explained.
Another area of focus, he suggested, should be on making convictions and “to win more trials.”
However, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi last night told Guardian Media that electronic monitoring is already in place but can only be triggered by the Judiciary.
“The Electronic Monitoring Unit has already been established by the Ministry of National Security,” Al-Rawi said.
He said he believes the increase in arrests and charges for sexual offences was as a result of the work of the TTPS Child Protection Unit and an “improvement” at the Children’s Authority under Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister Ayanna Webster-Roy.
Al-Rawi said the Government intends to return to the Parliament with amendments to the Bail Act specifically relating to “one strike charges and bail restrictions,” despite not receiving the support of the Opposition last year.