Wed | Oct 4, 2023

Councillors want health update on children taken from Bayith Yahweh complex

Published:Saturday | June 10, 2023 | 12:51 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer


FOLLOWING WEDNESDAY’S multiagency raid at the controversial Bayith Yahweh worship complex in Norwood, St James, councillors at the St James Municipal Corporation [StJMC] are raising serious concerns about whether a health assessment has been done for the children taken from the property or of the property itself.

The issue was raised yesterday during the St James Health Department’s report at the StJMC’s monthly meeting, one day after 23 children were taken from the Bayith Yahweh compound in an operation spearheaded by the Child Protection and Family Services Agency [CPFSA], the Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse [CISOCA], the fire department, and the Criminal Investigation Bureau [CIB].

Councillor Anthony Murray, the StJMC’s councillor for the Rose Hall division, wanted to know whether the children, who are said to be between ages one to 17 and consist of 15 boys and eight girls, have been thoroughly assessed to determine their medical well-being in light of their circumstances prior to Wednesday’s operation.

“There was a massive multiagency operation in Paradise, Norwood, and about 20 youngsters were removed from this particular building. I want to find out what is the health condition of the children and for such a building to be housing children along with adults, whether they would need a public-health approval for such a church to be operating,” said Murray.

“Would it need to be certified by the health department for them to keep children there? Also, would those children need to be medically examined to ascertain their status?” Murray pressed.

In response, Steve Morris, the chief public health inspector for St James, gave the assurance that the health department’s officials would be closely monitoring the situation as it relates to the health of the children, who are currently in a place of safety.

“We have a programme where we visit any institution, where it is operating for a day or prolonged period, for instance daycare centres or schools. A church would not have that scrutiny so much, but if there is living accommodation being done, as was in this case, then they would fall under that programme as well,” Morris told the meeting.

“With the situation that has arisen, our officials will be looking at that situation. In terms of medicals, the team is led by CISOCA and those other organisations, and they definitely will engage the health department in assessing those persons,” Morris added.

Meanwhile, Councillor David Brown, the StJMC’s councillor for the Montego Bay West division, urged the health department to fast-track their investigations to make a determination about the Bayith Yahweh building itself.

“Now that the operation has been done, I would recommend strongly that a team from the public health department be sent to the establishment. This is to see what type of living conditions the children were being forced to reside under, and if it is not suitable and up to standard, what can be done to the establishment,” said Brown.

Wednesday’s raid at the Bayith Yahweh complex follows a previous police operation in 2019, which was conducted in response to reports of child abuse and young girls being married to grown men.