Gary Griffith--USE

 Gary Griffith

THE Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) has launched a new unit to investigate and prosecute sexual offences in the country.

The unit is called the Sexual Offences Unit (SOU) and is expected to be headed by Snr Supt Claire Guy-Alleyne, who currently heads the Gender Based Violence Unit (GBVU).

Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith made the announcement yesterday during a press briefing at the police administration building in Port of Spain.

He was supported by Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Odette Lewis, Snr Supt Wayne Mystar and Guy-Alleyne.

Griffith said with the establishment of these two units, he expected reported cases of sexual assault to increase and for older enquiries to be closed.

“We will create a database and a new system of samples which will help us to look at cold cases. This will ensure that it is also a greater deterrent for persons who want to commit crimes. As persons know there are now consequences and we’ve lifted our standard,” he said.

He noted that policies were being drafted to ensure that people who come to hospitals for treatment for abuse and assaults would have their cases reported to the police.

“We need to ensure that even if persons go to private institutions, even if the victim does not want to report the crime, if it comes to us, we can now go after the possible perpetrator,” Griffith said.

Victims no longer have to be silent

Lewis in her address said there was a 57 per cent reduction in reports of rape this year as between January 1 and May 31, there had been 28 cases.

For the same period in 2019, there were 31 reports.

This drop may have been due to under reporting. However, with the introduction of the new unit, she expected that citizens would come forward.

“We welcome the opportunity to assist and bring justice to these victims who have stayed silent for so long. They will now have a dedicated avenue for voicing their experiences,” Lewis said.

She said the SOU and the GBVU would be working alongside the Child Protection Unit, all under the umbrella of “Special Victims Department” in the TTPS, which would investigate all reports of sexual assaults for male or female victims. She assured that the officers attached to these units will undergo sensitivity training to know how to handle the cases they have been assigned.

The units will also partner with agencies to ensure that support is given to victims after the matter is reported to the police.

She noted that the TTPS was working with the judiciary with the view to setting up a special court to deal with sexual matters in camera hearings.

The GBVU, which was launched in January, has assisted in the prosecution of 106 people.

And there is no intention to slow down, Guy-Alleyne said.

“Today, I stand before you with a promise that we will continue to work on behalf of survivors regardless of gender or nationality,” she said.

She noted that changes in every society required a movement, and she believed that this country and the TTPS were in the middle of such a movement with the establishment of these units.

“Sexual abuse, whether it’s occurred at home or in the workplace, at the hands of public figures, or at the hands of familiar individuals, I say today we will investigate and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law,” Alleyne said.

—Alexander Bruzual