A prediction: Abusers will be free in no time

THE Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network (JYAN) has said that there is an increasing need for a comprehensive review of the laws and policies that Jamaica has in place to protect its children.

The amendment of the Child Care and Protection Act, the JYAN said, is way overdue — and constantly seeing instances of violence against our children is a reminder that we are not doing enough.

“We do need stricter penalties for those who harm our children, but recognise that each matter is dealt with on its own merits and according to guidelines. We need to look at our sentencing guidelines to ensure that they are providing sufficient guidance for the varying and unique circumstances that we are seeing before us. It is not our intention to question the authority of the judges and their ability to properly execute their mandate,” Shannique Bowden, executive director of JYAN, told the Jamaica Observer in an interview.

“However it is understood that the wider society, and moreso those directly affected by these incidents and tragedies, are outraged by the sentences and do not feel they fit the crime.”

Bowden said though, people can only make inferences from the information that is reported, and anyone would think that the sentences imposed often do not fit the nature and gruesomeness of the crime. “Someone who sexually assaulted seven girls getting 17 years, another abuser getting 23 years for 12 counts of rape and abduction — these are the instances before us.”

Bowden told the Sunday Observer that when it is considered that the victims of these crimes are “our most vulnerable”, the sentences do not feel like justice.

“The reality is, our children are living in fear and their childhoods are being interrupted by violence — whether it is actual, or they are in fear of experiencing it. For the victims of these crimes there is the very real possibility that their abusers, if they are ever sentenced, will be out by the time they are in their 20s, or early 30s,” she said.

“There is the real likelihood of the abuser returning to their communities, and they have to contend with the possibility of facing their abuser in their communities later on in life. These nuances are things that should also be considered when sentencing. We want to see our children protected, and when they are harmed we want to see justice and we want to see enhanced and varied rehabilitative resources available to them. There are a lot of things that need prioritising.”