A new law slated to pass this year will help protect children from sexual predators by implementing measures including a sex-offender register, according to Health and Social Development Minister Vincent Wheatley.

Mr. Wheatley made the disclosure during a recent House of Assembly meeting in response to questions from opposition member and Deputy Speaker Stacy Mather, who sounded a warning about sex crimes in the territory.

“I do see predators that have been convicted and walk around,” Mr. Mather said during a Jan. 30 HOA meeting, adding, “People do get reformed, … but I do think our public needs to be informed.”

Mr. Wheatley said the proposed legislation will include a Sexual Offences Bill and seven supporting bills.

“The Sexual Offences Bill will seek to provide a gender-sensitive legal framework relating to a broad range of sexual crimes and provide adequate measures for minimising secondary traumatisation [and for] mentoring and tracking of sexual offenders following their reintroduction into society,” he said, adding, “We will also address the implementation, monitoring, … investigation and prosecution procedures, legal proceedings, evidence and sentencing — and provide protection, support and assistance to complainants and survivors.”

The law, he said, will help bring the territory in line with international best practice, in part by “prioritising the prevention” of gender-based violence.

Drafting process

The legislation has been a long time coming.

In September 2019, Mr. Wheatley said, the Cabinet approved a legislative brief for a sexual offenders bill.

“The Attorney General’s Chambers received the drafting instructions in February of 2020, and I am happy to report that we were recently advised by chambers that … the Sexual Offences Bill [and] seven supporting bills were consequently drafted, and the ministry should be in receipt of same in the coming weeks for review,” he said.

“Following this, we will engage relevant stakeholders to garner feedback on the tenets of the proposed legislation.”

The government, he said, aims to have the bill approved and tabled in the HOA by the third quarter of this year.

Opposition question

Mr. Wheatley’s updates came after the deputy speaker asked him, “Given the public outcry for decades, what, if any, progress has been made towards updating the territory’s legislation on criminal sexual offenders and the implementation of a sex offenders registry?”