A young mother who received a Caribbean cruise as an incentive reward for her excellent work performance saw her dream cruise dissolve into a bizarre nightmare after she met a tall, bearded young American man.
The woman, Karine Gagne, a 23-year-old French-Canadian, was on an unidentified cruise ship, which cruise schedules indicate was Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Sky.
On the ship, in what newspapers describe as a “casino and bar area”, Gagne met an American youth, bearded and over six feet tall (183cm). The youth reportedly told Gagne that he was 18 years old.
Then came the bombshell. It turns out the youth is aged 15. When the boy’s mother, who was travelling with her son, learned of the tryst, she reported the alleged incident to police in the Bahamas, where the ship docked.
Under Bahamas law, sex with anyone aged 15 counts as statutory rape and carries a maximum term of life imprisonment.
Section 11(1)(a) of the Bahamas’ Sexual Offences Act, Chapter 99 states: “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 Bahamas Sexual assault is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for life.”
Cruise Law News, the blog by noted Miami-based maritime lawyer Jim Walker, mentions a peculiar twist. In Quebec, where Gagne is from, 15 year olds can legally consent to sex. Not, apparently, that Gagne knew the youth was 15.
Gagne, who is reportedly the mother of three children aged 3, 4 and 5, was swiftly placed under arrest. News of her arrest, and photos of Gagne, were splashed across newspapers in the Bahamas and online around the world. The suspect, looking haggard, is shown being escorted by beaming Bahamian police officers to the courthouse from the jail in which she is imprisoned.
Gagne’s family are raising money for her legal defence via a crowd-funding page. Money raised stood yesterday at USD 7413. The English version of the Gagne’s tale is at the bottom of that site, beneath the French version.
Gagne apparently denies that that she ever left the casino/bar alone or that she engaged in sexual relations with the boy. Gagne’s next Magistrate’s Court appearance is scheduled for this Friday, 3 February 2017. The matter is expected to be transferred to the Supreme Court of the Bahamas.
Until then, Gagne languishes in a Bahamian prison.
The sad case serves as a reminder of the pitfalls of casual sex aboard ship – if indeed any sex took place. It has certain parallels with another recent cruise ship case, in which a ship’s waiter faces up to 15 years in a Florida prison if convicted of shipboard sex charges. The waiter stands accused of having a sexual encounter in a bathroom with a 15-year-old female cruise passenger. See: Cruise waiter arrested on bathroom lewdness charge
Written by Peter Needham