June 27, 2014
Media barred from reporting on sexual offences

Since the start of the criminal assizes at the High Court in May, journalists have been barred from reporting on sexual offence cases.

However, Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Colin John said the prohibition is quite normal.

When contacted on Wednesday, {{more}}John told SEARCHLIGHT that in some jurisdictions, trials for sexual offences are held “in camera,” meaning that the public and press are not allowed to observe the procedure or process.

“Unless it’s a case of where infants or young persons are involved, the court would seek the permission of the victim, if they don’t have a problem with the matter being reported. If the person says they don’t have a problem, they would allow it to be heard,” John explained.

Trinidadian judge Rajiv Persad is presiding over the assizes.

Another publication had reported that on June 4, Persad had made a ruling that the reporter could not report on the contents of a rape case.

The journalist had to leave the courtroom.

John, however, said from his experience, reporters who cover the courts in St Vincent and the Grenadines are responsible and would not disclose the name or residence of the victim.

“The court still has a discretion in sexual matters, whether or not they want to hear it in camera or in open court. This judge is inclined to exercise his discretion,” John stated.

According to John, in a recent case of unlawful sexual intercourse with a girl under 13 before Justice Persad, the prosecution and defence were asked if they had any objection with the matter being heard in camera.

“We said we didn’t have any objection and it proceeded. It is really the court’s the decision, on consultation with the persons involved, the prosecution and defence,” John said.

In the past, High Court judges have allowed the media to report on sexual offences, once the names, residence or identifying characteristics of the victims are not disclosed.

“It’s just like Justice Bruce-Lyle and Justice Thom, they exercised their discretion in a different way, by allowing it,” John said.

It therefore seems unlikely that there will be any reports from the High Court for the present assizes, as SEARCHLIGHT understands that all remaining matters down for hearing are sexual offences.

Since the commencement of the assizes on May 20, the two cases which have been heard were both sexual offences.

The first person who was on trial was found not guilty of his charge and the second matter was discontinued against the accused.

Persad is acting as High Court judge from May 9 to July 31 in the absence of resident High Court judge Frederick Bruce-Lyle, who is on vacation.(KW)