Suggestion made for sexual harassment tribunal to use discretion on claims made after deadline

Donald Gittens, a representative of the Independent Jamaica Council for Human Rights
A suggestion has been made for the tribunal set up to hear sexual harassment claims to be given the discretion to accept complaints that are made after the proposed one-year time frame.
The issue of the deadline for filing complaints has been a hotly debated one before the joint parliamentary committee reviewing the Sexual Harassment Act.
There has been concern that the 12 months given is too short as it could take victims years to feel comfortable enough to make a report, while others have said persons should not be allowed to make accusations way after the fact.
On Thursday afternoon, Donald Gittens, a representative of the Independent Jamaica Council for Human Rights, sought to strike a balance. 
"The Council supports the view that there should be no rigidity in the 12-month period that is provided. We support the provision of a time limit, otherwise, we might have a situation like we have now generally with charges under the criminal law, where there is generally no time limit. But the rigidity we do not accept. And how we propose that this could be addressed, is that the tribunal could be given power expressly to exercise a discretion to extend the time within which the complaint can be lodged if the complaint is lodged out of time," he suggested.  
Members of the committee questioned what criteria could be used by the committee to determine whether late complaints can be accepted.
Mr. Gittens said the reasons for the delay could be among the factors. 
"The tribunal could look at the length of the delay, first of all. It could also look at the reasons advanced by the applicant for the delay, for example, whether the applicant has been undergoing mental/ emotional stress or distress arising from what is complained about and how the applicant might have sought to deal with that and other factors that would have prevented the applicant from making the complaint within 12 months, or might have discouraged the applicant from making the application within the 12 months," he explained. 

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