To name or not to name, that is the question!

It was on Wednesday that the word spread like wildfire that the nation had recorded yet another broad-daylight, bold-as-brass rape. On RCI’s midday news it was reported that two individuals had entered a store, casually locking the door behind them, and had ravaged the store attendant. According to the news item, police had not yet confirmed the incident, allegedly occurring the day before. The confirmation came only after the broadcast—with news that there had been another rape, on February 6, of a British tourist at her hotel.

According to the police press statement: “On Tuesday, February 16, 2016 about 5:00 p.m. a report of rape was made to the Gros-Islet Police station by a store attendant of Mongiraud, Gros-Islet. On the stated date about 4:30 p.m. two masked men entered her store in a menacing manner. According to reports the store attendant was tied and allegedly raped.” Also on Wednesday the police issued a press release headlined: “Rape Charge Against Police Officer!”

Under the law it is illegal for the victims of rape and the accused to be named or identified. It is an issue that is being debated particularly in the case of the accused. There are also calls in some quarters for Saint Lucia to institute a registry of convicted sex offenders.

Under the law it is illegal for the victims of rape and the accused to be named or identified. It is an issue that is being debated particularly in the case of the accused. There are also calls in some quarters for Saint Lucia to institute a registry of convicted sex offenders.

A short time later the police press relations office seemed to correct itself. The original communiqué had featured the accused “senior constable” by name. After his appearance before the First District Court to be ordered back on February 23 the police issued yet another release—without the officer’s name. The press relations department also took the opportunity to remind the press that “according to law, we should not display or say the name of the accused in the rape matter.”

According to the law “after a person is charged with an offence . . . any matter that is likely to lead members of the public to identify a person as the complainant or as the accused in relation to that charge shall not be published in a written publication or be broadcast in this State except a) if on the application of the complainant or the accused the court directs that the effect of the restriction is to impose a substantial and unreasonable restriction on the reporting of proceedings and that it is in the public interest to remove the restriction in respect of the applicant; or b) in the case of the accused, after the person has been tried and convicted of the offence . . . A person who publishes or broadcasts any matter in contravention of subsection (1) commits an offence and is liable on conviction on indictment to a fine of $50,000 and to imprisonment for three years.”

Therefore, it is more than passing strange that not only did the police give away the name of the accused, they also released additional information concerning his background. What then? What to make also of the three young men who were accused of raping two teenage girls last year, and who were portrayed by the media on their way to a court hearing last year for all to see and identify? Maybe the police press relations department can issue a lesson or two on that but first, as the saying goes, maybe charity should begin at home.

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