A 37-year-old man convicted of six counts of having sex with a female under the age of 14 is the first person to be ordered by the court to register as a sex offender.
Everton Joseph will have to register at the police station in his district seven days after he serves a nine-year prison term. His name will remain on the register for ten years and he must report annually, as ordered by the judge who sentenced him on Wednesday.
Joseph was before Justice Hayden St Clair-Douglas at a virtual sentencing hearing from prison. He was convicted by a jury in February.
At the sentencing hearing, the judge had some stern words for Joseph and others like him: “The law is clear. Underage females are off limits.”
St Clair-Douglas warned that punishment would be severe and no man who engages in such acts can use the defence that the child was “precocious” or “she look for it.”
He said even while acknowledging that the victim in this incident was not just willing but an enthusiastic participant, she was 12 years old the first time they had sex, and Joseph, who was 24, ought to have known better, done better and turned away.
“A 24-year-old man should have recognised he was dealing with a child, a precocious child, and should have spurned her attentions.
“The law protects young precocious girls from themselves. You were older and supposed to know better,” St Clair-Douglas told Joseph.
According to the evidence, Joseph and the girl had sex between February and June 2009. She was 12 the first time, and she became pregnant. She dropped out of school in form one and had a daughter. She returned to school and progressed to form two but became pregnant again and dropped out for good.
In her victim impact statement, which the judge read out as he began his sentencing, the girl said, “I never completed school as a result of having my kids at a young age. I had my daughter at the age of 13. I was then a form one student, after giving birth went back to school, advanced to form two, (and) got pregnant again with my son. I was 14. I never returned after having my son,”
St Clair-Douglas said, as he told Joseph he had ruined the girl’s life,“These are not the words of a young female in some isolated plantation in a rural Trinidad in the 1940s. This is Trinidad in a residential urban community in the 21st century. This is unacceptable,”
Joseph is the father of his victim’s three children – the last of whom she had when she was 18 – and owes $39,600 in maintenance payments for them, as he “has not been helping take care of the children.”
“It is clear he does not regard his responsibility to his children as a priority,” St Clair-Douglas said.
He did not take into consideration the sexual acts between Joseph and his victim after 2009, saying that was only to provide a contextual backdrop and informational epilogue. But he said it was clear that the laying of charges in 2009 did not deter Joseph, who continued to have sex with the girl even after he was told she was pregnant and was underage.
Joseph and the girl were members of the same steelband and he said in his evidence at trial that he admired her passion for music. The judge said the admiration transformed into a physical attraction.
Joseph said he never questioned the girl’s age. She was also not “put out” when he suggested they have sex the first time, even asking for it to take place and inviting him to her room when she was home alone on another occasion.
The judge said the fact that the other sexual encounter was initiated by the girl did not assist Joseph, since the law was clear that young girls were off-limits.
“Older men are supposed to know better and turn away regardless of temptation.
“It is necessary for the court to reaffirm this in case there was any doubt that it would attract the most severe punishment. An older man is supposed to know better. He must walk away,” the judge said.
St Clair-Douglas also said a 14-year-old was not equipped, either physically or financially, to become a mother. He said he has never heard a young girl say it was her life’s ambition to have a child at the age of 12, another by 14 and three by the time she became an adult.
Joseph received a one-year reduction for his previous good character, another for the time he has spent in pre-trial custody, and one because of the covid19 pandemic. As the judge considered the authorities relating to suspended sentences because of the pandemic, he said in this case, any consideration of its impact of it could not transmutate the sentence into a non-custodial one.
In ordering Joseph’s name, photograph and biographical details put on the sex offenders’ registry, the judge said a mental health assessment had to be requested by the court. The report suggested that Joseph was aware of the nature and consequences of his convictions, showed no signs of psychological illness or disorders and showed no impulse to or exhibited interest in having sex with minors.
“He did not meet the diagnostic criteria for paedophilia,” the judge said, adding that the report also suggested there was no risk of his re-offending, that he was a sexual deviant or posed a risk to his victim.
Joseph was represented by defence attorney Fulton Wilson, who asked if anyone else had ever been ordered by the court to be put on the registry. St Clair-Douglas said as far as he knew no one else had been, and prosecutor Giselle Heller also said she knew of no other case where it had been ordered.
Only on Tuesday, head of the police Gender-based Violence Unit acting Supt Claire Guy-Alleyne clarified the procedure for someone to be put on the sex offenders’ registry.
“Looking at social media for the last couple of days, persons feel that once a person is charged for a sex offence, they can automatically be registered on the sex offenders’ registry,” she said. “That is not the case.”
She explained that the offender must be charged and convicted and a judge must make an order for that person to be put on the registry.
Guy-Alleyne was speaking at the weekly media conference at the Police Administration Building.
Acting Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Mc Donald Jacob said even though the registry is not available to the public, the database is designed so that the police would be aware of all the people charged with various sexual offences to help them with their investigations.
Procedure for registration under the Sexual Offenders’ Registry.
In sentencing Joseph, Justice St Clair-Douglas pointed to the relevant sections of the Sexual Offences Act 2019 he used to mke his order that the convicted sex offender be put on the national sexual offender register.
Section 45 of the Act established the register.
The Act provides for the Commissioner of Police to have control and custody of the register and is responsible for maintaining it, ensuring that the information entered conforms with the law and that it is accurate.
He also has to establish a website which contain the name, date of birth, photograph, main and secondary addresses and convictions of the sex offender.
In sentencing Joseph and making the order that he report for the purpose of being registered as a sex offender, the judge said he was directed by Section 49 of Act which provides for the court to order the convicted sex offender to report to a police station to register as a registered sex offender.
That section relates to persons who are convicted of an offence under section 4, 4A, 9, 12 of the Act and section 18 of the Children Act.
Section 49(1)(b) provides for the court to order the person report to a police station at the time he is required to report to register. In Joseph’s case he is required to report after he serves his nine year prison term.
Section 49(2) provides for the court, before ordering the person to register, to request a mental assessment report from a psychiatrist. This was done by a psychiatrist at the St Ann’s Hospital.
Clause 3 of that section sets out what the judge has to take into account, coming out of the report and the circumstances of the case, before making the order. Clause 4 provides for the judge to state the duration of the reporting period, the frequency of the reporting and if the information on the sex offender should be published on the website.
Source: Antigua News Room