LA votes to make ‘grooming’ an offence

| 13/09/2018 | 14 Comments
grooming, Cayman News Service

Grooming of children is now an offence in the Cayman Islands

(CNS): Amendments to the Cayman Islands Penal Code that government steered through the Legislative Assembly on Thursday will add a number of sexual offences to the law, in particular grooming, to aid the prosecution of this type of predatory threat to children and vulnerable people. The attorney general explained that the changes dealt with the absence of crimes associated with grooming, which would help police and prosecutors charge sexual offenders, even before any physical contact with children, but also add grooming crimes when people are charged with sexual assault, gross indecency or other sex-related crimes, giving the authorities more power to protect the community from abusers.

Attorney General Sam Bulgin spoke about the problems that police, prosecutors and the courts have faced in some cases, such as that of sports coach Ato Stephens, in prosecuting what are clearly inappropriate acts that should be sanctioned but which, before these amendments were drafted, proved difficult to prosecute.

Bulgin pointed out that in Stephens’ case, he had clearly been involved in grooming one of his young athletes but the authorities could only charge him with offences under the ICTA law, which carries limited and short sentences.

“He got what was in all honesty a lenient sentence,” Bulgin said, explaining that this was because the court’s hands were tied on the sentencing. More importantly, he said, the charges against Stephens under the ICTA legislation simply did not capture the nature of the actual offending.

This new amendment bill, however, paves the way for criminalising the manipulation of children by potential abusers, especially on social media, and sending or exchanging explicit images and pornographic videos.

The goal is to create new and separately defined offences, which will carry sentences that are much greater than those currently available under the ICTA law, ranging from four to twelve years, depending on the severity of the different abuse and grooming.

The legislation also adds a higher minimum mandatory sentences for those who breach a position of trust. The attorney general used the Stephens case again to illustrate the point, saying that, as the coach of his victim, he could have faced a six-year minimum jail term for his grooming actions if he had been prosecuted under this new legislation, instead of the 18 months he actually got.

The law deals with around eight new offences that cover the common predatory behaviour that abusers often use to gain access to children, as well introducing more offending around sex-crimes and providing for retrospective sexual harm prevention orders.

The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service has welcomed the changes, and Inspector Kevin Ashworth, Manager of the RCIPS Family Support Unit, recently said they go to the heart of grooming. He said the law will allow investigators to be more pro-active in stemming the frequency of abuse; they may be able to intervene to prevent an abuser moving on to harming a child if they can stop them before the planned abuse with a grooming charge.

The amendments passed on Thursday evening.

The entire opposition was absent as they had boycotted the day’s proceedings after the speaker had suspended the deputy opposition leader that morning. However, while those members were not present for the vote, they had all indicated their support on Cayman Brac last week when the bulk of the debate had taken place.

Legal changes to help prosecute grooming

See the amendment to the Penal Code in the CNS Library

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Comments (14)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    You can pass all the laws/amendments you like, but it wont mean people actually get prosecuted. In Cayman sexual abuse of children in endemic and nothing is done about it.

  2. anonymous says:

    Does this apply to hairdressers?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Can we stop religious grooming, which is where most of the sexual grooming has a place to operate.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Why did it take so long.
    Why always 50 years behind the rest of the world ?
    Anthony ? Any idea ?

    • Anonymous says:

      because caymanians would rather spend 50 years trying to re-invent the wheel…. because they think they can do it better…….

  5. anonymous says:

    What sentence did he get?

  6. KMR says:

    In all honesty, Government needs to agree & vote to amend all areas of the penal code that involves all sexual offences, that the mandatory sentence be 25 years to life – no if’s ands or buts!

    People who are charged with “possession of cocaine” get a much higher sentence than someone who has raped/molested/sexually assaulted a child/woman.

    Where does that happen…oh yes, #ONLYINCAYMAN


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