That’s disgraceful and heart-rending, says Blaine

As
put by advocacy group Hear the Children’s Cry, “it is a disgraceful display of Jamaica’s justice system” that an issue of child molestation continues to be dragged out in court.

Sheridan Shepherd of a St Mary address was charged on June 17, 2021 with buggering seven minors, five counts of indecent assault, and one count of grievous sexual assault. Over a year after the fact, he pleaded guilty to all the charges laid against him and was supposed to be sentenced the following. week

However, there has been a series of delays with his sentencing — the most recent being put off from Thursday, December 15 until Thursday, January 12, 2023. But last Thursday justice was delayed yet again, leaving victims without a conclusion. The sentencing was postponed to a date in February by Justice Simone Wolfe-Reece.

“We are distressed about this, and what a bad way to start 2023. Can you imagine? We can’t start this new year like this; it’s too much,” Hear the Children’s Cry founder Betty Ann Blaine lamented to the Jamaica Observer last Friday.

Blaine said it is disgraceful and heart-rending.

“It sure is. It definitely is. It is a blight on our country. I don’t understand. These cases should be treated as priority cases. That’s the point we are making. And to put a parent through this is not acceptable at all. This is no way to start the new year,” she said.

Two brothers, ages six and 12, were among seven victims of Shepherd. The boys’ mother, who in December expressed disappointment and frustration at the elongated sentencing, also highlighted the financial demands.

On December 14 she travelled from St Mary to the Supreme Court on King Street, downtown Kingston, along with some parents of the other abused children. She spent $1,400 on public transportation alone.

A day before what was supposed to be the sentencing, the woman told the Sunday Observer that she wasn’t going to show up, lest it would prove to be another waste of time.

“I know, but I am not going back to Kingston and get another disappointing sad story. When the sentence is handed down I will hear about it,” she said last Thursday.

The Friday after the postponement, she added, “I felt it. I want to get past this so bad right now, and I want nothing after that to remind me of that nightmare. I am continuing to trust God and have faith.”

According to reports, a young girl in the same community made a report to her grandmother about Shepherd in June, which was followed by similar reports from the six other children. Immediately after, Shepherd was held and severely beaten by irate residents before police intervened.

Moreover, Blaine told the Sunday Observer that Chief Justice Bryan Sykes needs to get involved in the matter.

“I am really calling on Chief Justice Sykes for this new year to take a closer look at these cases. It can’t be that this mother is travelling from country to town and every time she comes the case is put off. That can’t work. And so I would like to use the opportunity to reach out to Justice Sykes, who I think is a very fair-minded and a good chief justice, to ask him what he can do about this,” she said.

“There must be something we can do to resolve this case so that this continued trauma that this parent has to go through will end. Not to mention the expense to be travelling up and down, and that is the least. There is the trauma. We talk about closure, but I don’t know if any parent ever gets over something like this, but there still needs to be a resolution in our courts that could let them sleep at nights,” Blaine said.

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