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The Parliament of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has passed, with bi-partisan support, stiffer penalties for some sex crimes, including increasing the penalty for sexual intercourse with a girl under the age of 15 years.

Before Thursday’s revision of the law, the maximum sentence was five years imprisonment. It has been increased to 15.

“It’s a significant increase,” Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, who is also minister of legal affairs, told Parliament as he presented the amendments to lawmakers, noting that in SVG, no girl under the age of 15 can consent to sexual intercourse.

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Gonsalves, a lawyer, noted that the maximum penalty for sex with a girl under the age of 13 is life imprisonment.

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“Of course, honourable members will know that many of these offences are often compromised or covered up in certain communities,” said Gonsalves, who is also minister of national security.

“And that is an ongoing issue of education and interface between police and complainants and Ministry of National Mobilisation, the counsellors, teachers, pastors, and so on and so forth,” he said.

Under the revised law, the penalty for intercourse with a defective person has moved from five years imprisonment to 15 years.

“It’s perhaps apt that we are addressing these matters in Child Awareness Month, following up on when we had the discussions in the month of March, when we had this the select committee, the month which is allocated for women, for special discussion of issues touching and concerning woman.”

Ralph Gonsalves
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves speaking in Parliament on Thursday, April 4, 2024.

Lawmakers have also doubled to 10 years imprisonment the maximum sentence for indecent assault on a child under the age of 15.

However, in all other cases, the maximum penalty was increased from two years to five years.

“And of course, instances of indecent assault, as those who practice law and those who live in the real world know, that they are at different levels.”

Gonsalves said that indecency with a child, an offence that was punishable by a maximum of one year in prison, would now attract up to 10 years behind bars.

Any person who permits premises to be used for sex with a girl under the age of 15 would face up to 15 years imprisonment, one year more than before the law was revised.

And, whereas the maximum penalty was seven years if the girl is 13 years old but under the age of 15, the new penalty is up to 10 years imprisonment.

The prime minister said that several persons do not know that this is an offence.

“And I want to read it for the purposes of the public: ‘A person who is the owner or occupier of any premises, or who has or acts or assists in the management or control of any premises, and who knowingly allows or induces a girl under the age of 15 to resort to or be in those premises for the purpose of having sexual intercourse is guilty of an offence’ and liable to imprisonment,” Gonsalves said. 

“I’ve been advised that in some cases, you have some associational groups, maybe gangs, they may feel they have a place where there’s a dwelling and they allow some young girl to be brought there not for them to have sex with the person, with the young girl but to allow other persons. Well, that’s a serious criminal offence — allowing the premises to be used. It is almost as serious as if you do it yourself.”

The revision to the law increases from seven to 15 years the punishment for causing or encouraging prostitution of a girl under the age of 15.

Causing prostitution of a woman has moved from 14 to 15 years imprisonment, the same as for detention in a brothel, a man living on earnings of prostitution, a woman exercising control over a prostitute, or keeping a brothel

“A number of persons don’t know that there are these several offences you know,” Gonsalves said.

“Very often, of course, is to get the evidence to prosecute, but you must have the offences nevertheless on the books,” he said.

“And when I say the evidence, I’m not talking about gossip, superstition. I’m talking about admissible evidence which reaches to a level that you will have a likelihood of a successful prosecution,” he further stated.

“In other words, credible admissible evidence. Because very often Mary may tell Janes, who tells Ephraim, who tells the police. but you can’t get Mary to tell you because what Jane gets there is hearsay. And if it doesn’t fall under one of the exceptions to the hearsay rule, it would be inadmissible in evidence.”

Lawmakers have further increased from seven to 10 years in prison, the maximum sentence that the court can impose on a person who lets premises to be used as a brothel. However, for a repeat offender, the maximum penalty moves from 14 to 15 years imprisonment.

Procurement of a woman by treats was moved from two to seven years and procurement of a woman by false pretences was similarly adjusted.

Gonsalves noted that the law says, “Any person who procures or attempts to procure a woman by threats or intimidation to have unlawful sexual intercourse, whether within St. Vincent and Grenadines or elsewhere, is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment.”

Further, any person who administers drugs to facilitate intercourse can face up to 10 years in prison, twice the previous maximum.

“… and this is one which those who practice law or those who follow matters in this area would know that there are reports, increasingly, of these matters with particular kinds of drugs which you put in a lady’s drink,” the prime minister said.

He noted that the law says, “Any person who applies or administers to or causes to be taken by a woman, any drugs, matter or thing with intent to stupefy or overpower her so as thereby to enable any man to have unlawful sexual intercourse with her is guilty of an offence.”

The penalty for incest has been increased from 14 to 20 years.

However, whereas before the amendment a man faced a maximum of 14 years, a woman faced a maximum of seven. However, the maximum penalty is now 20 years imprisonment, regardless of the sex of the offender.

6 replies on “St. Vincent increases penalties for some sex crimes”

  1. Jose Anderson says:

    Is the law proactive or retroactive? The answer is proactive. The law now passed now seeks to increase the penalty for statutory rape of a minor under the age of 13 and 15 was long overdue and seen as one of the most progressive piece of legislation ever passed in St Vincent and the Grenadines. What is nebulous ,however, is howvdoes this change impact the legislation when for example when a 13 year have had sex with another peer of his her own age? Was the law mean to address a situation where an adult have sex with an under age only or vice versa?

    Although the law must be applied proactively rather than retroactively . Would it influence cases currenly before the courts […]? In the case of Regina v Sussex, the law must not only be done it must be seen to be done.

  2. This legislation when passed has the potential to stop hard back men who prey on girls dead in their tracks. The list includes but not limited to situations involving incest and other forms of rape in which the victims can never consented as in the case of statutory rape.

    Pedophile take note the law seeks to make one accountable for your crimes. The police fails the investigative techniques. Every teenager has a cellular phone. The use of the phone is provides a smoking gun. What were the numbers used to call Kemesha?
    […] The crime solving ratios as mentioned in the last parliamentary debate was a dismal one The chief crime fighting guru needs to be retrained. Only then would there be some positive trajectory in the crime solving statistics.

  3. S. Williams says:

    Sex offenders you have been called to account for your crimes . No longer would the penalty failed to fit the crime. By pass the law, Vincentians law makers subscribes to the notion that the penalty should fit the crime.

    No longer will incest be tollerated. Pedophile who like them young include van drivers must pay for their crimes appropriately. Pastors you are called upon to advertise the new law. Too long have you been silent to the point where the issue have never addressed.

  4. The definition of incest must be broaden to also include brother who abusee their undeaged sister in law. This problem is common in Vincyland. I am a victim.of this assault and the perpetrator went unpunished because I discussed it with my relatives. I was told to shut up.

  5. Take warning says:

    and what about the penalty fo those who ha nolliprost and rape party rally ?? some ar we deserve the Nobel prize fo shamelessness bold facedness.

Comments closed.