Hanover pastor pleads guilty to sex crimes
Clergy concerned churches not safe havens for children
WESTERN BUREAU: Pastor Phillip Scott, who was arrested in late 2019 for allegedly sexually molesting at least seven underage girls across several communities in Hanover, has pleaded guilty and is to be sentenced on July 8 in the Hanover Circuit...
Pastor Phillip Scott, who was arrested in late 2019 for allegedly sexually molesting at least seven underage girls across several communities in Hanover, has pleaded guilty and is to be sentenced on July 8 in the Hanover Circuit Court.
Scott still has two other sex assault cases ongoing in the courts of Hanover and St James, said Superintendent Sharon Beeput, the police commander for Hanover.
He is to appear in court in Hanover on July 6 for rape and in the St James Parish Court on July 17.
Scott initially gave his name as Oniel Palmer at the time of his arrest but it was later discovered that that declaration was fictitious.
The 2019 allegation arose after a police patrol reportedly saw Scott beating a child. After intervening, the police discovered that she was allegedly being abused by Scott.
Subsequent to Scott’s arrest, several parents went to the police with other underage girls claiming that the now-convicted pastor had also sexually assaulted them. It was also later discovered that the child rescued from the beating was pregnant.
“Since Scott’s arrest, the child has had a baby, which has been tied to Scott by a DNA test,” said Beeput, who recently declared war on sexual predators in the parish after a string of similar offences.
CRISIS AND LIGHT CONVICTIONS
Scott’s conviction and Monday’s arrest of a St James pastor, who allegedly raped a 15-year-old congregant, have again turned the spotlight on Jamaica’s crisis of child sex abuse and concerns about perceived light sentencing of offenders.
Two recent court rulings stirred public outrage. In May, a 22-year-old Kingston baker was given a three-year suspended sentence after impregnating a 15-year-old minor. And Devon Ricketts, also in May, had his sentence reduced to 15 years for incest after being convicted of sexual assault of his daughter, who herself was the child of his stepdaughter.
The stepdaughter had also cited sexual abuse at the hands of Ricketts.
The black eye on the Church has emerged as a source of much concern among clergy in western Jamaica.
Pastors Charles Brevitt and Glen Samuels have condemned the scourge of sexual abuse as ungodly.
“If a pastor who is supposed to be the defender of moral principles gets involved at the level, it should cause some concern,” said the outspoken Brevitt, who leads the flock at King’s Seventh-day Adventist Church in Mt Salem, St James.
Brevitt said he is disappointed that the Church is not insulated against such scandals.
“We should not be surprised, because Lucifer was in God’s presence and Judas was under Jesus’ arm,” he said.
Samuels, president of the West Jamaica Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, says he is particularly disturbed by the allegation, as the church should be a safe place for children, especially those in vulnerable situations.
“This is a troubling issue, and it cuts across denominations, professional circles. It is worse when it is among church folk, because if there is any place where young people ought to feel safe, it should be among those who claim to be connected to Christ,” said Samuels.