ALBERT TOWN, Trelawny — Alarmed at the number of rapes, including incest, being seen in southern Trelawny, president of the Trelawny Justice of the Peace and Lay Magistrates Association, Kenneth Grant is rallying JPs to work with residents to find a solution.
Concerns mounted this week after the rape and murder of 15-year-old Jamilia Cole in the Cotton Tree community. Before that, the parish police had expressed concern about the large number of rape victims that are under 18 years old.
“I have spoken to my justices to say, ‘Listen, we are going to have to see if we can do some community talks to air our concerns about the sexual offences, especially with family members and other community members with underage children’,” Grant said.
“We have spoken about it since it has been highlighted by the chief justice [Bryan Sykes] and we plan as justices to have community meetings and see how best we can encourage people to desist from these heinous acts. It is sickening, sickening to the core,” he added.
Sykes’s comments came last month as he presided over the Trelawny Circuit Court. In sentencing a man who repeatedly had intercourse with his daughter against her will, the chief justice lashed out at what he described as “a culture and a pattern” in southern Trelawny. The social enquiry report in that case, which is comprised of interviews done with community residents ahead of a sentencing exercise, saw individuals blasting the young girl as “ungrateful” for turning in the man who had “sent her to school” while labelling her “a slut, a whore and pickney weh teck man”.
It is this culture that Grant is hoping JPs will be able to change.
Trelawny Southern Member of Parliament Marisa Dalrymple Philbert is also among those who have expressed alarm about what is happening in the constituency she has represented for the past two decades.
“There has been a culture that has grown and grown and grown and I have seen it in my own practice as an attorney here. The incidents of people having sexual intercourse…men with underage children, have grown,” she said during her visit to Cotton Tree on Tuesday. “We are a God-fearing community but I want to tell you it is a community that I have recognised has grown to accept this and it is becoming the norm. A little girl has died and what I have heard was done to her is — I can’t even begin to think of it as a mother. But we have to stop it, stop it!”
The MP added: “There are lot of things that are taking place in this country now that have become the norm that is wrong. It is wrong. We continue to practise what is wrong. We cover up and we expect the police to come in and find out what we know and we should be telling for ourselves. We should be saying it for ourselves; not the police, not the Government.”
At the end of the Trelawny Circuit Court last week, head of the parish’s police division, Deputy Superintendent of Police Winston Milton noted that there has “been a notable exponential increase in instances of sexual offences” in the parish.
“Since the commencement of the year we have eight or 106 per cent increase when compared with the corresponding period when five such incidents were recorded for 2022,” he noted. “When assessing the data, 69 per cent of the rape victims are between the ages of 11 to 18 year old.”
DSP Milton stressed that the police are working with other stakeholders to stem the growing culture, particularly in south Trelawny, of young girls being preyed upon by adult men.
“The division is cognisant that our children are exposed to sexual abuse. Consequently, we are working assiduously to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice,” he said.