The Caribbean island nation of Antigua and Barbuda will establish a special court for sexual assault cases to fast-track the delivery of justice and offer support for victims and witnesses.
The Sexual Offences Model Court will be set up this year by the Judicial Reform and Institutional Strengthening (JURIST) Project in collaboration with the Government of Antigua and Barbuda and the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC), reports regional news portal Caribbean360.
A 2007 World Bank report states that three of the top ten recorded rape rates in the world occur in the Caribbean and most incidents of rape and child sexual abuse are often not reported to state authorities.
Antigua and Barbuda Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin has stated they are committed to ending sexual violence in the country as they are implementing projects to end the phenomenon.
“We are very pleased that Antigua and Barbuda was selected as the country to establish the Sexual Offences Model Court. The Government recognizes the need to have effective systems in place to deal with sexual violence,” Benjamin was quoted by Caribbean360.
The Chief Justice of the ECSC, Dame Janice Pereira, also confirmed the improvements in the delivery of justice in sexual violence cases in the region. She cited a law that bars defence lawyers from using the sexual history of victims to attack their credibility.
The Sexual Offences Model Court will test the Caribbean’s new Model Guidelines for Sexual Offence Cases which prescribes best international practices for dealing with sexual assault cases. Signatories to the Guidelines include Barbados, Belize, Guyana and Jamaica.