Lock ’em up - DPP urges cops to collar parents, guardians who turn a blind eye to child abuse, neglect
Amid a spate of violent attacks and sexual abuse of young children, the nation’s top prosecutor Paula Llewellyn has challenged the police to use the Child Care and Protection Act to go after parents and caregivers who fail to report incidents involving children under their care.
The Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse has long indicated that in most instances where young girls fall victims to rape and other sex-related offences, the perpetrators are relatives or close family friends.
As Jamaica celebrates Child Month, Llewellyn, the director of public prosecutions (DPP), suggested yesterday that the police begin strict enforcement of the law.
“If your 14-year-old or your 13-year-old is pregnant, how can you say that you are not aware that your child was molested?” she asked.
“This thing where we give everybody a bly because people feel sorry for them, … they must be prosecuted – the parents and the caregivers,” she declared.
“And also, for those caregivers and parents who leave one child to look after another child and then you have the place burning down and the children perish, … the police must enforce the law, and where they have the evidence, prosecute them for breaching the Child Care and Protection Act,” she added.
Lennon Anderson, president of the National Parent-Teacher Association of Jamaica, agrees that getting tough on delinquent parents and caregivers would help to reduce violent attacks on children.
“When you look at the data-bank, there are lots and lots of ... [cases of abuse] against our children, but people go unpunished,” said Anderson, who made it clear he was expressing his personal views. “You hear about the abuse against our children and you wonder why ... [so few] people are being prosecuted.”
Llewellyn, lamenting the breakdown of proper parenting in the society, said too many persons – whether because they do not know better or refuse to take responsibility – seem contented to allow their children to roam the streets, sometimes late at night.
But according to her, residents in these communities as well as civic and political leaders have failed to confront these and other social issues, instead shifting responsibility to the police.
“And then when one of these children [is] killed, you see everybody crying, ‘Oh, poor child!’, when they saw the child up and down 5 o’clock, 6 o’clock and did nothing,” Llewellyn said as she addressed the weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of Kingston at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in St Andrew yesterday.
“When you look at some of the files, it is so obvious that the people in the yard, the people in the church, the people in the community, … they know what has been happening, but everybody decide to play the part of the Pharisee and pass on the other side of the road and say, ‘it’s not my business’,” she added.
Singling out the media and politicians, the DPP said citizens must not be afraid to call out antisocial behaviour.
“Even if you think you may lose a vote, you cannot be afraid to call your constituents to book,” she said in reference to politicians.
Close to 20 children have been slain in Jamaica so far this year.
In one of the most high-profile cases recently, the nation erupted in anger on April 16 after the decomposing body of eight-year-old Shantae Skyers was found in bushes in Blue Hole, a section of Sterling Castle Heights in St Andrew. She had been reported missing five days before the body was found.
At a community meeting organised by the police to discuss security issues in the area in the aftermath, Superintendent Charmaine Shand, who heads the Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse, said that the number of sexual abuse cases involving children in the division was startling.
“Prior to coming here, I checked the statistics for the St Andrew North area, where we have 55 cases of sexual abuse of children reported since the start of this year. Our children are being abused, and we are seeing it, yet we are not talking. It is wrong, it is wrong, it is wrong,” Shand said at the April 25 meeting.