A Bermudian convicted of possession of child pornography in the United States should have to register as a sex offender if he returns to the island, the head of a child sex abuse prevention charity said yesterday.
Debi Ray-Rivers said it should be mandatory for Andrew Charlton and every other convicted child sex offender to register as a sex offender with the Bermuda Police Service, regardless of their sentence.
Charlton pleaded no contest to a charge of possession of child pornography at a Rhode Island court last month.
He was sentenced to two years’ probation and will also be placed on the state’s public sex offender register.
The 32-year-old was arrested in late 2017 after detectives discovered he was using his laptop to share files of child pornography on a peer-to-peer file-sharing network.
Evidence of more than 100 images of child pornography was found on his computer after it was seized, including some that involved very young children.
The conditions of his probation mean Charlton, of Crane Terrace, Narragansett, Rhode Island, must not live with children, have any contact with children, including electronically, or loiter or live inside 300 feet of a school, daycare centre, playground or other place where children congregate.
Ms Ray-Rivers, founder and executive director of Saving Children and Revealing Secrets, told The Royal Gazette: “Given Andrew Charlton’s conviction of possessing child pornography, and the restrictions and conditions placed on him in Rhode Island, if he should return to Bermuda, those same restrictions and conditions, in our view, should apply here in Bermuda.
“Also, it should be made mandatory that he register with the police as a registered sex offender. These are the types of restrictions and conditions we would like to see with every convicted child sex offender.”
Antoine Daniels, Assistant Commissioner of Police, said Bermuda law required only people who were sentenced to prison overseas for sex offences to be added to the island’s non-public register if they become a resident here.
He added: “However, the Bermuda Police Service in collaboration with both its local and overseas partners continues to monitor these types of cases and gather as much information as possible, which allows for the assessment of potential risk, enabling a proportionate response in reducing future threat and harm to our local communities.”
Mr Daniels said the BPS was aware of Charlton’s conviction and of his name being added to the RI sex offenders’ register.
He added: “The BPS has a number of information-sharing agreements with law enforcement agencies in America, together with other foreign jurisdictions, and are currently in the process of seeking official notification in relation to this particular case.”
Ms Ray-Rivers said Mr Daniels’s comments were “encouraging”.
She added police did not have the resources to track the movements of all child sex offenders so all adults had to take precautions to protect children.
Ms Ray-Rivers said: “Parents must educate themselves in prevention. They need to talk to their children about body safety early and often and also talk to them about where they go on their devices and monitor them closely.
“Youth-serving organisations should screen volunteers and employees, do reference checks, mandate prevention training and implement codes of conduct and have the employee or volunteer sign it.”
She added: “Sometimes those that suffer with addiction of any kind, suffer with control. We can only pray and hope that Mr Charlton does not move from viewing children — which is against the law and harmful enough — to direct involvement and scarring them.”
Kelly Hunt, the executive director of the Coalition for the Protection of Children, said that although Bermuda had a sex offenders’ register, “putting it mildly” there were still major loopholes.
She explained Bermuda was “still limited” in what could be done to stop convicted paedophiles from “working with or being around children”.
Ms Hunt said that children’s camps, churches and other private institutions were “particularly susceptible because they are not bound to a vulnerable person’s policy, or background checks”.
She added: “We cannot rest until this safety net is secure and child protection is strengthened as a priority for Bermuda.
“Without these preventative measures in place, we remain concerned for the safety of our young people. It is our responsibility to protect children, but they are still the victims in these horrible crimes. Unfortunately, there is much more work to be done to keep our children safe.”
Rhode Island State Police said because Charlton lived in Rhode Island there was no requirement to notify authorities in Bermuda of the court’s action or his placement on the state’s sex offenders’ register.
Charlton is the son of Ray Charlton, a former One Bermuda Alliance election candidate and the former chairman of the West End Development Corporation.
By Sam Strangeways Investigations Editor The Royal Gazette