LONGER prison sentences are needed.
That is the call being made by Betty Ann Blaine, children’s advocate and founder of Hear the Children’s Cry, as she pointed to individuals who are found guilty of committing crimes against children.
“I think the judiciary, as well as the rest of the country, must now look at these sentences being passed down for people who abuse children, particularly rape, abductions and so on. Over the years we have noticed that some of the sentences have been very light. And I think that the kind of sentences judges give for these crimes are important,” Blaine told the Jamaica Observer.
Blaine said short prison times for men, in particular, who have abused or murdered children and leave their families with lifelong pain, trivialises the grave offence.
“It sends a message to me and across the country that children can be abused, raped, killed, involved in cases of incest and so on. The consequences are light. In other words, at a time like this when we see so many cases of abuse against children, a message must be sent that if you are convicted, you are going to serve a lot of time.”
Blaine added: “The message must be: ‘You are going to serve a long time, we are going to lock you away from society for a long time.’ And I think the public needs to hear that message and see that message.”
Some recent cases in which the families of the victims and the public at large have been outraged following sentencing include that of Davian Bryan, Sheridan Sherpherd and the matter involving Raven Wilson.
Shepherd, the 40-year-old St Mary man who admitted to sexually assaulting seven children, was sentenced to 17 years and 11 months in prison on Friday, February 10, 2023. He is eligible for parole after 12 years.
Bryan was sentenced to 23 years’ imprisonment when he appeared in the St Thomas Parish Court on Wednesday, May 31, 2023. He had pleaded guilty to 12 counts of rape, grievous sexual assault, and forcible abduction. Bryan abducted and sexually assaulted two girls — aged nine and 13 — in Bath, St Thomas, in October 2021.
Justice Minister Delroy Chuck expressed disappointment over what he said was the inadequate sentence for Bryan. Chuck said life imprisonment would have been more fitting.
In November 2018, two 15-year-old boys were charged in relation to Raven’s killing. One was charged with murder and the other, accessory after the fact to murder.
The jury trial, which started early in May, ended on Wednesday, May 31, 2023 as both accused men, now 19-year-olds, were freed.
Raven’s mother, Lavern Morgan, and other relatives protested the sentence in St Ann’s Bay last Monday.
Too often, Blaine told the Sunday Observer, the justice system sends the message that offences against children are not a “big deal”.
“I think we have to look at that; this should be subject for a national conversation. I know that the joint select committee of Parliament is looking at amendments of the Child Care and Protection Act right now. Perhaps this is the kind of thing that should be looked into as well. They are looking at sentencing for juveniles and this is, to me, an appropriate time to look at the sentencing for cases where children are victims,” Blaine said.