Bridgetown, Barbados–Victims of sexual offences can expect improved management of their cases as a result of a new document – “Model Guidelines for Sexual Offence Cases in the Caribbean Region” It was launched by the Judicial Reform and Institutional Strengthening (JURIST) Project funded by the Government of Canada.

The guidelines are intended to provide internationally accepted best practices for the management of sexual offence cases, and offer a rights-based approach to the treatment of complainants and vulnerable witnesses including children, involved in sexual assault cases.

Speaking at the launch at Marriott Courtyard Hotel, The Hon. Sir Marston Gibson, Chief Justice of Barbados, welcomed the initiative and admitted that the length of time sexual offence cases take are indeed too long. “And if you try to find where the fault lies, the fault doesn’t lie with any particular branch or group, but yet the cases seem to take long,” he said..

“For example, a child of 12, who is the victim of a sexual offence… by the time we get through what used to be the preliminary inquiry and the investigation and get what is needed ready for trial, this child who was 12 has moved on

“She has managed to finish school, now in University and she gets a call from the DPP’s office stating the matter is now on for trail. Now she has to relive the trauma. And what are discovering is that a lot of those victims say no; they say that they will not put themselves through that again and will not get on a witness stand to be asked all the very intimate and sometimes embarrassing questions that can be asked.

“So, what ends up happening is that this victim loses her rights and what I am grateful for in the launch of these Model Guidelines is that they are rights-based,” Sir Marston stressed.

Barbados is the first country to launch the Guidelines, which will be adopted by all countries in the region and its implementation will result in speedy adjudication of cases and reduction of case backlogs over time; improved responses to survivors; a trained and skilled cadre of cross-sectional professionals; and increased public confidence in the justice system as it relates to the handling of sexual assault cases.

The Hon. Mme. Justice Maureen Rajnauth-Lee, Judge at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) pointed out that the problems faced by the justice system in its management of sexual offences and the treatment of complainants are multifaceted and therefore required a multi-sectoral solution. She shared that it is for this reason the Sexual Offences Advisory Committee was established to provide advice and support to the JURIST Project in the development of the guidelines.

“The document is a result of the direct contribution and input over 200 persons and over 15 months of intensive work. It is robust, comprehensive and most applicable to current realities in respect of the adjudication of sexual offense cases in the Caribbean,” Justice Rajnauth-Lee said. (TL)