DPP: ‘Public-interest’ sharing of images can hide evil agendas

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard,SC. –

DIRECTOR of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard said the sharing of images of people without their consent on the grounds of public interest, could conceal more evil agendas by the people who do so.

He expressed this opinion during a virtual meeting with members of the Senate Select Committee (SSC) on the the Sexual Offences (Amendment) (No.3) Bill, 2021 on Monday.

Responding to questions raised by committee member Jayanti Lutchmedial, Gaspard said, “The public interest has always been somewhat amorphous and nebulous.”

He added that things defined in this manner, always pose challenges, especially where the prosecution is required to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.”

Gaspard acknowledged that some people may be concerned about certain categories of people using the cover of public interest as “a fig leaf so as to hide perhaps more nefarious motives.”

Against this background, he opined that the sharing of images of children without their consent or the consent of their parents or guardians, does not qualify as being in the public interest.

Lutchmedial reiterated her concerns that often such images are shared allegedly in the public interest by people who may not be legitimate media practitioners.

At a virtual meeting of the SSC on February 21, Lutchmedial described the media as an unregulated industry. She said the main goal of the legislation was to protect victims of alleged sexual offences from images of them being publicised without their consent.

At that time Lutchmedial asked, “So how do you balance the rights of the media versus the rights of the victims? Everybody with a phone is ‘media’ now.”

In response to another question posed by Lutchmedial, Gaspard said people who have cameras installed in their homes for security purposes could not be charged with voyeurism under this legislation. Voyeurism is defined as the practice of gaining sexual pleasure from watching others when they are naked or engaged in sexual activity.

Referring to the bill, Gaspard explained that the crime of voyeurism occurs when someone observes another person “for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification for himself or another person, or causing humiliation or distress to a person who does certain things.

In a scenario, where a homeowner was watching a visitor in his or her home on an internal camera system for security reasons, Gaspard said a claim of voyeurism is not applicable.

“You have an in-built statutory provision which gives you immunity from prosecution in those circumstances as sketched

Gaspard suggested that the definitions of the types of technology covered under the legislation could be simplified.

“It makes for easier prosecutions and, more particularly, it makes for easier investigations.”

He added, “Not only that. You will find that it tends to attract the attention of investigators more readily than if the devices are technically described as they are in the definition section of devices in the bill.