This Act prescribes measures to prevent and combat trafficking in persons with particular regard to victims who are women and children, and aims to assist victims of trafficking and facilitating efficient investigation of cases of trafficking. The offence of trafficking is committed if a person recruits, transports, transfer, harbors or receives another person within Jamaica, from Jamaica to another country, or from another country to Jamaica. A person found guilty of an offence in terms of the Act is liable to a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 20 years.
Women and Justice: Jurisdiction
This Act prohibits the employment of women in night work save in certain circumstances. Night work is recognized in the Act as “work in an industrial undertaking during the night.” The total hours of employment of women for both day and night work shall not exceed 10 hours in a 24 hour period. To ensure compliance with the Act and that no exploitation of women occurs, the Act provides for powers of inspection in industrial undertakings, and where it is found that an industrial undertaking obstructs any inspection or is guilty of an offence under this Act, it will be liable to a fine for summary conviction and in a default of payment thereof, imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months. If a proprietor or manager of an industrial undertaking is found to be in contravention of the provisions of the Act, such person will be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months.
The Offences against the Person Act lists acts recognized in law as punishable offences and details the ways in which the law deals with the offenders under the said acts. Child stealing is recognized as a felony and any person convicted for child stealing shall be imprisoned for a term not exceeding seven years. Kidnapping is recognized as a felony and any person convicted shall be liable to imprisonment for life. Attempts to procure abortion (by virtue of the pregnant woman unlawfully administering any substances to terminate her pregnancy by whatsoever means) is recognized as a felony and shall be liable for imprisonment for life. Infanticide (the act by which a woman willfully causes the death of her child under the age of twelve months) is a punishable offence recognized as the offence of manslaughter of a child.
The Child Pornography (Prevention) Act prohibits the production, distribution, importation, exportation or possession of child pornography and the use of children for pornography A “Child” is a male or a female person under the age of 18 years. Child pornography constitutes any visual representation, any audio recording or written material depicting engagement of a child in sexual activity or depicts body parts of child for sexual purposes, or depicts a child subject to torture, cruelty, or physical abuse of a sexual context. A person who has custody of, charge or care of a child and knowingly causes or incites the involvement of a child in the production of child pornography commits an offence and will be liable for a fine or to imprisonment (or both) for a term not exceeding 15 years. The production or distribution of child pornography carries a penalty of imprisonment for a term not exceeding 20 years. Possession of child pornography carries a penalty of a fine or imprisonment (or both) for a term not exceeding 8 years. The receipt of any financial benefit from any offence in terms of the act carries a penalty of a fine or imprisonment (or both) for a term not exceeding 20 years. The act preserves the identity of the victims, thereby preventing any disclosure in relation to the victim. Any person that publishes information in contravention of the act shall be liable for a fine not exceeding one million dollars or imprisonment for a maximum period of 12 months.
The Sexual Offences Act specifically outlaws many sex-based crimes, including rape, sexual assault, marital rape, sexual touching or interference, inducing or encouraging the violation of a child, indecent assault, violation of persons suffering from mental or physical disabilities, forcible abduction, procuration, unlawful detention with the intent to have sexual intercourse, and living on earnings of prostitution. It also amended certain laws and standards regarding consent. It abolished the common law presumption that a boy under fourteen years of age could not commit rape, and further noted that consent is “immaterial” in any offences involving a child. The Act restricts evidence that can be brought at rape trials, specifically preventing the complainant from being asked about his or her sexual history. It preserves the possibility of anonymity for persons bringing claims under the Sexual Offences Act. Finally, it creates a sex offender registry and mandates registration for persons convicted of sexual offences.
Section 23 of the Criminal Justice Administration Act states that proceedings regarding accusations of certain crimes shall be held in camera (privately). These crimes include rape, grievous sexual assault, marital rape, sexual intercourse with a person under age sixteen, indecent adult, or involvement in prostitution.
The Domestic Violence Act (“DVA”), originally enacted in 1996 and amended in 2004, aims to provide protections for women and children domestic violence situations. It gives courts the power to grant protection and occupation orders. Applications for such orders can be brought by the victim or, in the case of a child, a parent, guardian, constable, or social worker can bring an application on the child’s behalf. The DVA sets forth the limitations imposed by protective orders, and it states courts can grant such an order if “it is satisfied that” the individual against whom the order is sought used or threatened to use violence, mental or physical, against the person seeking the order. Even without that showing, the court can grant a protective order if it finds the order necessary for the protection of the person “having regard to all circumstances.” The court can grant protection and occupation orders on an ex parte basis if the court deems it necessary. Punishment for violating an order is a fine not exceeding $10,000 or imprisonment for a maximum of six months, or both.
The 2011 Amendments to the Jamaican Constitution specifically enumerated a “right to freedom from discrimination on the ground of . . . being male or female.” The amendments also guaranteed a number of fundamental rights and freedoms, including the right to be free from inhuman or degrading treatment and torture, and protection of the right to own property, receive an education, vote, and speak freely.
The applicant was convicted in the Circuit Court of Kingston for the offences of indecent assault, incest and assault. Later, a single judge granted leave to appeal and granted legal aid to the appellant. The prosecution conceded that the learned trial judge erred in imposing a sentence of 15 years imprisonment in respect of the incest charge, under the Child Care Protection Act of 2004, because the appellant was actually charged under the Incest (Punishment) Act, which establishes as maximum penalty for the crime is five years. As a consequence, the appeal against the sentence was allowed on the incest charge and this was set aside and substituted for five years imprisonment. The Court didn’t take into account, nor studied, the possibility of amending the indictment due to the specific circumstances and seriousness of the case, that is, the fact that the appellant sexually assaulted an underage girl on more than one occasion, and also, according to the evidence, threatened her to kill her if she made him go to prison.
The applicant was sentenced to seven years imprisonment for abduction and robbery with aggravation. In response to his first application for leave to appeal against conviction and sentence, the judge granted him leave to appeal to the sentence, but refused permission to appeal against conviction. The applicant renewed his application for leave to appeal against his conviction. The issue on appeal was whether the indictment erroneously citing the wrong statute warranted overturning the conviction. The offence of forcible abduction can be found in the section 17 of the Sexual Offences Act, and it was formerly an offence addressed in section 56 of the Offences Against Person Act. The latter was repealed when the Sexual Offences Act passed. Although the sections are not identically worded, they create the same offence of taking away a woman, against her will, with the intent of having sexual intercourse with her. The indictment in this case had incorrectly stated that the offence was in violation of section 56 (which had been repealed at that point). Nonetheless, the Court of Appeals decided that the error was not fatal to the conviction, as an amendment would have been permissible. This leads to the conclusion that as long as indictment errors are related to the form, and not the substance, then there is no prejudice to the appellants.
The appellant was charged for carnal abuse of a girl under the age of 12 years and buggery. On 20 April 2009, the appellant was convicted for carnal abuse (but not for buggery). On 9 November 2010 the appellant filed for leave against the conviction and the sentence. He argued in his appeal that the trial judge was obliged to give the jury a separate and distinct warning related to the dangers of convicting relying solely on the uncorroborated evidence from children (in addition to the warning she gave them in relation to the dangers of convicting relying solely on the uncorroborated evidence of complainants in sexual cases). However, the Court decided that it’s entirely within the discretion of the trial judge to determine (taking into account the content and manner of the witness’ evidence, the circumstances of the case and the issues raised), whether to give any warning at all, and if so, in what terms. As a result, in exercising her discretion, the judge decided the girl’s age did not warrant a specific, separate warning other than the one given related to the danger of acting on uncorroborated evidence in a sexual case.
The applicant pleaded guilty before the Circuit Court of Westmoreland for the offence of having sexual intercourse with a girl under the age of 16, in violation of section 10(1) of the Sexual Offences Act. He was in a serious relationship with the underage girl, but the matter was brought to the attention of the police when the complainant discovered she was pregnant and there was a dispute regarding the defendant’s paternity (tests showed he indeed was the father). He then argued that he was lured and tempted by the complainant, who would attend to his shop in revealing clothes and make sexual advances to him. The grounds for the defendant’s application was that the four-year sentence was manifestly excessive and that the judge was obliged to indicate, as a matter of law, the sentence that would have been imposed if the applicant had been convicted at trial and use that as a starting point for taking into account the fact that the applicant had plead guilty. In addition, his counsel highlighted as mitigating factors: the girl was just six months away from the age of consent and the sexual intercourse was consensual. His counsel also argued that the judge did not take into consideration the character and antecedents of the applicant, as well as the classic sentencing principles of retribution, deterrence, prevention and rehabilitation. However, the Court decided that, although the indication of a starting point for sentencing would have been desirable, they do not see the omission as being fatal to the reasoning underlying the sentencing. They also highlighted that it’s clear that Parliament has recognized this offence as a serious one, and their commitment against it. This case is particularly important because the Court stated that Jamaica has particular difficulties in dealing with offences involving young girls constantly being abused and exploited by older men, and that they have to get the message out that the children must be allowed to transition into adulthood without any molestation. Furthermore, the court stated that the pregnancy of the girl must not be taken as a mitigating factor, because that would send the message that a man who gets the girl pregnant is likely to be treated more favorably by the Court. Finally, the Court insisted that these pronouncements, in the context of the alarming local circumstances, should be guiding principles in sentencing these matters and cases.
On 29 July 2009, the applicant was convicted in the Home Circuit Court for rape of a 17-year-old girl. She claimed that he hauled her to the back of an abandoned house while asking her indecent questions and threatening her, and then proceeded to forcibly have sexual intercourse with her. He confirmed that they had had sexual intercourse in the yard of a building, but claimed they were in a long-term relationship. As to prove this, a witness testified that the applicant introduced the complainant to her as his girlfriend. However, her testimony was contradictory and unclear. His application for leave to appeal was heard and refused by a single judge of the Supreme Court of Criminal Appeal. He then renewed application for leave to appeal, arguing that the learned trial judge failed to adequately address questions raised by the jury during their deliberations, only giving them broad and general directions concerning their role and legal duty. His application for leave to appeal was again refused by the full Court. The application was denied because the court determined that the lower court made an accurate comparison of precedents offered, and that the trial judge’s jury direction was appropriate and within the acceptable parameters of what has become known as the Watson direction (as established by the English Court of appeal in the case R v. Watson). The judge was found to have avoided giving the jury any hint of pressure, correctly advised them to apply both their individual and collective experiences, and urged them to share their perspectives, but also to be willing to adapt to the other’s view if they agreed.
On 24 May 2013, the applicant was found guilty of the abduction and rape of a 14-year-old girl. He had a good relationship with the parents of the girl and thus was a trustworthy person to her. The applicant’s first appeal application was denied. He renewed his application and the Supreme Court of Criminal Appeal granted the application. This time his conviction was quashed, the sentences were set aside, and the Court ordered a new trial at the next sitting of the Circuit Court. The applicant criticized the quality of the representation given by his counsel at the trial, arguing that his attorney did not provide an adequate defense and did not take full instructions from him. The attorney defending the applicant at the first trial argued that the applicant was properly defended, that the prosecutor also submitted that the defense was adequate and that, as the case turned on the contest of credibility between the complainant and the applicant, the jury’s verdict would have been the same, regardless of any omission by the defense counsel at the trial. Despite the seriousness of the alleged crime, the Court held that the applicant was denied the substance of a fair trial and quashed the conviction, setting aside the sentences, without doing a balancing test between the rights of the 14-year-old girl who was a victim of a crime, and the sex offender’s due process rights.
A 13 year old female complainant was raped in the home of the male defendant, where the complainant was a regular visitor. Despite rejecting the defendant’s monetary compensation to remain silent, the complainant did not disclose the incident until two weeks later when a third party noticed that she appeared to be depressed. At trial, the defendant was convicted by a jury for the offences of rape and indecent assault for which he was sentenced to 12 years and 2 years imprisonment, respectively, to be served concurrently. The jury had been instructed to base its decision on the credibility of the witnesses. On appeal, the defendant argued, inter alia, that there was a presumption of doubt on which the trial judge ought to have instructed the jury regarding the complainant’s credibility. According to the defendant, the complainant had several opportunities to promptly speak to a third party after the incident but did not do so, which should have called the truth of her testimony into question. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal because it was in the jury’s discretion whether to believe the complainant. Moreover, the Court, in dictum, noted that it is established that many victims of sexual crimes remain silent for a considerable length of time before making disclosures to third parties, and notwithstanding the lapse of time, the perpetrators of these crimes have nevertheless acknowledged the truth of the allegations made against them.
A young woman was sexually assaulted by a male police officer who encountered the woman while he was picking fruit behind her house. The officer followed the woman into her home, where he exposed his genitals and attempted to penetrate the woman’s vagina despite her resistance. Afterwards, the woman successfully identified him in an identification parade and he was subsequently charged with the offences of assault with intent to rape and indecent assault, for which he was convicted at trial and sentenced to nine months hard labor imprisonment. At sentencing, the trial judge found that the aggravating nature of the sexual offence outweighed the defendant’s mitigating circumstances, such as his status as a police officer. The officer appealed the sentence on the ground, inter alia, that his sentence was manifestly excessive and ought to have been non-custodial. The Court of Appeal dismissed the officer’s appeal because it agreed with the trial judge’s balancing approach, and noted that the maximum penalty that could have been imposed was three years of hard labor imprisonment. Moreover, the Court agreed with the trial judge’s statement that to a impose a non-custodial sentence for a case of sexual assault against a woman would send a wrong signal to both members of the police force and the general population in a society, such as Jamaica, where gender-based violence is prevalent.
While walking on the sidewalk on her way to work, a young woman was forced into a gully where she was raped and robbed at gunpoint by two men in the early hours of the morning. At trial, the two men were convicted after the woman had seen and recognized both defendants out in public after the rape and subsequently reported them to the police. The defendants appealed the conviction on the grounds that, inter alia, the trial judge had failed to adequately warn the jury of the dangers of relying on uncorroborated evidence in rape cases and also that the trial judge had failed to adequately assess the woman’s identification evidence. The Court rejected the appeal, citing precedent that, in sexual assault cases, where the only defense is mistaken identity and the court is satisfied with the complainant’s identification, traditional sexual assault warnings regarding corroborated evidence need not be given to the jury.
While taking a taxi to school, a 13-year-old girl was forcibly raped by the taxi driver, whom she had previously encountered. After learning about the incident, the girl’s mother reported the driver to the police and he was subsequently convicted at trial for rape and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment at hard labor. At trial, the driver’s defense was one of alibi—a denial of his involvement in the offence. When instructing the jury on the definition of rape, the trial judge omitted a discussion on the element of intent to rape, which would have required the jury to find that the defendant intended to have sexual intercourse with the girl without her consent. On appeal, the driver argued, inter alia, that this omission of an element of rape from the jury instructions rendered his conviction unsatisfactory. However, the Court rejected this argument because the driver’s defense did not challenge whether the girl had consented to the intercourse, instead he argued that he had no intercourse with the complainant. According to the Court, the question of intent to rape is only relevant in cases where there is an issue as to whether or not the complainant had consented, and thus because the driver’s defense was one of alibi, and not consent, the Court concluded that it was not necessary for the trial judge to provide an expanded definition of rape.
A 16-year-old girl was walking home from school when a man drew a gun on her, forced her into his home and raped her. At trial, the judge—acting as trier of fact—found the man guilty of illegal possession of a firearm and rape. Because the incident was not corroborated, the judge characterized the case as an issue of credibility. The defense attempted to discredit the girl’s credibility by pointing to discrepancies between her testimony in court and her original statements to the police. While the trial judge had acknowledged that the testimony was inconsistent, the judge also acknowledged that the girl’s rape was a traumatic experience and thus her statements to the police were given under exceptional circumstances. The Court agreed with the lower court that discrepancies are to be expected in cases of this nature and so long as they are minor discrepancies, the witness may still remain credible.