Friday, April 1, 2022

National Security Minister, Wayne Munroe says The Bahamas government is unified in wanting to send the clearest possible message to adults who would have sexual relationships with children

The Bahamas National Security Minister, Wayne Munroe: Our government is unified in wanting to send the clearest possible message to adults who would have sexual relationships with children under 16: your behavior will land you in jail, no matter the child’s behavior  

Bahamas Minister of National Security, Wayne Munroe
“I have spoken several times on the matter of a plea agreement and I deeply regret that my answers have caused concern.  I gave several interviews and I hope that pulling the salient points together in one place can be helpful to understanding my position:

1 Anyone who has sexual intercourse with a child under 16 is disordered.

2 Anyone who does so will go to prison.  The only question is the length of their sentence.

3 Sentence lengths for the offence in question are established by the Bahamas Court of Appeal.  For a first-time offender, the sentence is 7 years if the young woman does not consent, and 4 years if the young woman does consent.  The word “consent” is in the text of the relevant statute – “with or without consent”.

4 Plea agreements avoid court cases and thus help clear the backlog of cases in our justice system.  Additionally, plea bargaining spares the victim from having to give evidence thereby being forced to relive the trauma of the crime.

Our government is unified in wanting to send the clearest possible message to adults who would have sexual relationships with children under 16: your behavior will land you in jail, no matter the child’s behavior.

When I provide my analysis of a legal matter, as I have done in recent interviews, I do draw upon my decades of experience practicing law.  But I want Bahamians to be clear, it is this experience that allows me a clear view of the path to successful law enforcement and prosecution.  The goal in cases like these is to punish predatory behavior and to deter others from engaging in such behavior.”



Tribune Staff Reporter

NATIONAL Security Minister Wayne Munroe suggested yesterday that a 40-year-old man convicted of having unlawful sex with a 14-year-old girl received a sentence that was too severe, saying had he defended the case he would have argued it was not rape and that the girl consented.

His remarks prompted swift backlash from Free National Movement Deputy Leader Shanendon Cartwright and others.  Some activists have called on him to be fired.

Mr Munroe said he did not have all facts of the case, but told reporters he did not understand the controversy surrounding the sentence and anger about subsequent comments made by a prosecutor about the case.

“If I was advising the accused and somebody gets seven years for raping somebody I wouldn’t have been advising my client to agree to four years for unlawful intercourse because I would say that if we go to court you would say to the judge ‘he didn’t rape her - she consented’.  The fact is in law her consent is neither here nor there.  If I was the defence counsel I wouldn’t have accepted a plea deal with that high a level of penalty and we would have gone to court,” he told reporters.

Earlier in the interview, Mr Munroe said sentencing guidelines for rape differ depending whether the victim is a “virgin” or a “prostitute”.

“If you were to rape a virgin, if you raped a prostitute, both are rape, you’re likely to be awarded a higher sentence for raping a nun than raping a prostitute,” the former defence attorney said.  “That’s just what the case law says because you consider the impact of the offence and considering the impact of the offence you consider victim impact.  So that’s a part of sentencing.”

His comments came when he was asked by reporters about Acting Director of Public Prosecutions Franklyn Williams’ statements about a plea deal the convict received, which resulted in him getting four years in prison and three years’ probation upon release.

When contacted about the case, Mr Williams told a reporter on Wednesday: “We have a generation of highly sexualised young people, whether through media or association, and who because of parental inattention, lack of parental oversight and in some cases, tacit encouragement and acquiescence, engage in risky behaviours.  The facts of this case dictated the course taken.”

He later said he was not victim blaming, however.

Mr Munroe said he was trying to understand “controversy” about the case.

When told the offence was unlawful sexual intercourse, he said: “Which means that it’s not rape.  Which means you are punished because as a big man you shouldn’t be having sex with anybody under 16.  If the person under 16, if you force them, they would still charge you with sex with somebody under 16 but the sentencing court would say that you forced this person, they didn’t initiate it, so you will get a higher sentence than somebody who initiates it with you.  The general sentence for rape where the person isn’t consenting is seven years.”

Some observers accused Mr Williams of “victim blaming” and called for his resignation.

Asked to respond, Mr Munroe disagreed with that interpretation, saying “How is that victim blaming?”

He also said: “Yes she can give consent.  You can consent from seven years old.  It’s just that law says if you are under 16, if you read the offence having sexual intercourse with somebody under 16 with or without their consent which tells you that the person can consent.  Just that in law, we say it doesn’t matter.  If it doesn’t matter having sex with (a) 16-year-old whether she consents or she doesn’t consent that being the case since that offence has those two possibilities, the victim consent or the victim doesn’t consent.  Who would believe that the sentence should be the same whether the victim consents it should be same when the victim doesn’t consent.  One would hope that you would get a higher sentence when the victim doesn’t consent.”

According to published reports about the case, the girl and the man met on Facebook and met up to have sex multiple time over the course of several months.  Police found the girl at the man’s home after an anonymous tip in early 2020 and met her putting on her school uniform.  The child was examined at the hospital and where it was discovered she was pregnant.

In a statement issued yesterday, the FNM’s deputy leader said Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis needs to rein Mr Munroe in.

“I join with all right-thinking Bahamians in condemning the utterances of Minister of National Security Wayne Munroe with regard to how the law should be interpreted with regard to adults who prey on underage girls,” Mr Cartwright said.

“His opinions on consent are repugnant and have no place in a civilised country.  What the minister should be doing as a lawmaker is advocating for stronger laws to protect children, and a no tolerance approach as the minister of national security, as opposed to alerting child predators as to how they can beat the system.

“If he cannot advocate on behalf of protecting children and law-abiding citizens, then he should reconsider his current career choice.”