Two weeks ago, the Royal Bahamian Police Force arrested a French-Canadian woman from Quebec who was on an unidentified cruise ship (cruise schedules indicate it was the Norwegian Sky) in Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas for engaging in sex with a 15-year-old boy, who cannot legally give consent to have sexual intercourse under the law of the Bahamas.
The case involved a rather bizarre situation where the 23 year old woman met an American, 15 year old boy in what a newspaper describes as a "casino and bar area" on the cruise ship. The boy reportedly told the woman, (falsely so) that he was 18 years old. He also reportedly is over 6 feet tall and he was wearing a beard, apparently giving her the impression that he was an adult.
The two then allegedly engaged in sex in a bathroom on the ship. The boy’s mother learned of the alleged tryst and, over the protestations of her son, reported the alleged incident to the police in the Bahamas.
Section 11(1)(a) of the Bahamas’ Sexual Offences Act, Chapter 99 reads: “Any person who has unlawful sexual intercourse with any person being of or above 14 years of age and under 16 years of age, whether with or without the consent of the person with whom he had unlawful sexual intercourse is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for life.”
In the U.S., this is called "statutory rape;" it is irrelevant that the defendant was unaware that the child is underage. In Quebec, where the woman is from, 15 year olds can legally consent to sex.
The newspapers in the Bahamas have reported repeatedly on the arrest of the woman. They have published numerous photographs of the young woman in the custody of Bahamian police officers being led from the jail where she is imprisoned to the courthouse where she has attended several hearings in her criminal case. The photographs depict a obviously haggard woman, who has been kept in the harsh conditions of Her Majesty’s Prison, being escorting to court by smiling police officers.
The woman, who reportedly has three children aged 3, 4 and 5, had been given the cruise by her employer for her exemplary work performance.
Grand Stirrup Cay is a private island in the Bahamas owned by Norwegian Cruise Line.
The case, to me, appears to be, among other things, an indictment of the cruise line for allowing a unsupervised teenager into an area of the cruise ship limited to adults and apparently permitting him to drink alcohol. The Canadian woman’s Bahamian defense lawyer was quoted in the Tribune newspaper as saying that "this defendant has a very strong defence as it may be negligence on the part of the cruiseline for allowing the virtual complainant to have access to activities reserved for adults."
I don’t practice criminal law, but it seems highly relevant that the alleged victim apparently lied to the woman that he was an adult. It also seems relevant that due to the boy’s height and facial hair, the woman may have reasonably believed that he was an adult, as he claimed before having sex with her.
The Bahamas, which has the highest number of reported rapes in the Caribbean, seems to have a double standard in dealing with the issue of sexual assault. I have represented several women, both passengers and crew members, who have been sexually assaulted by crew members on Bahamian-flagged cruise ships in Bahamian waters where the police showed little interest in arresting the perpetrators or where the Bahamian prosecutors quickly dropped the charges.
The Bahamas also has a deplorable case of prosecuting cases where children are sexually assaulted by crew members on Bahamian-Flagged ships, such as this case where a Disney crew member sexually assaulted a young girl on the Disney Dream. The police in Nassau dropped the case and permitted the cruise line pedophile to leave the jurisdiction.
The Bahamas’ interest in pursuing the case may also be, in part, political pay-back for Canada’s prior warnings against travel to the Bahamas’ due to its high violent crime rate.
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January 20, 2017 Update: The family of the arrested woman, who is raising money for her legal defense via a Go-Fund-Me type of page, is denying that she ever left the casino/bar alone or that she engaged in sexual relations with the boy.
February 3, 2017 Update: Bahamian police escorted Ms. Gagné back to Court again today where she learned that she will remain in jail. The French-Canadian newspaper Le Nouvelliste says (interpreted) that the defendant should learn later this month whether she will be released on bond and permitted to return to Canada pending the prosecution of the case pending against her.
March 23, 2017 Update: The Bahamas reportedly will abandon pursuing the charges of sexual assault against Ms. Gagné, according to a newspaper in Canada.
Photo credit: Tribune