Home Affairs Minister tells Tynwald of competing priorities

Tynwald buildings, Douglas

Tynwald buildings, Douglas

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Is new financial crime legislation being given greater priority than that dealing with offences against children?

Home Affairs Minister Juan Watterson told Tynwald there was a ‘tough balance to be struck between protecting the vulnerable and protecting our international reputation’.

He was replying to a question from Glenfaba MHK David Anderson who asked what plans he had to bring forward a Sexual Offences Bill covering offences connected with the internet and also draft legislation allowing cross-examination of vulnerable witness.

A mother whose toddler was sexually abused at a Douglas nursery last year welcomed proposed changes to allow the cross-examination of all witnesses under the age of 18, and those identified as vulnerable, to be pre-recorded before a case is brought to trial.

But Mr Watterson told Tynwald last week that his department had competing priorities.

He said sexual offences legislation needed a major overhaul and a proposed new Bill would include provisions dealing with new technologies and social media being used by offenders.

He said: ‘It will be progressed as soon as possible but until we have passed certain stages in progressing other legislation I would not want to give a commitment to a date.’

That other legislation includes changes to meet international Moneyval obligations to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism, the Minister explained.

He said consideration was also being given to pre-recording of vulnerable witnesses in a Sentencing Bill, which was just ahead of the proposed Sexual Offences Bill in the legislative drafting priorities.

Mr Anderson pointed out the Minister had given an assurance nearly a year ago that legislation would be prioritised. ‘Even though there is a small number of people involved. They are very vulnerable people,’ he said.

Dudley Butt MLC, a former detective chief inspector, asked whether the Minister considered financial crime legislation of greater priority than that dealing with offences against children and their vulnerability as witnesses.

Mr Watterson replied that the Council of Ministers also had priorities and that it is ‘a tough balance to strike between protecting the vulnerable and protecting our international reputation’.

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