Fri | Jul 20, 2018

Editorial | Step in and save gay gully boys

Published:Thursday | April 6, 2017 | 12:05 AM


We may have missed it, but we haven't seen or heard of a declaration of embarrassment and regret from Enid Ross-Stewart, head of the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA). That action would have been expected in response to the scandalous ambivalence, surrender even, of police personnel with regard to the recent revelation, in our sister publication, THE STAR, of a 14-year-old boy living in Kingston's gullies with putative criminals.

What is particularly galling is that the boy is suspected of being sexually groomed, or worse, by homeless gay and transgender men living in grimy gullies, some of them emerging at night as thieves and societal misfits.

The boy's father has appealed to the police force on numerous occasions to rescue his son, who was reportedly lured by a person with whom he made contact online. The police admitted to having gone to find the teenager but failed to secure his return, even after locating him.

"These are children that we are dealing with. I can't send officers to go in the gully along with these men. These men are quite dangerous," Detective Inspector Claudette Hepburn. "Also, we don't want it to be said that the police are using force on them because they are of a different lifestyle. CISOCA never discriminates."

Perhaps CISOCA never discriminates! But it sometimes does worse!

Inspector Hepburn, in a stunning admission of incompetence and apathy, said the police personnel under her charge were more concerned about perceived criticism that may follow from hostile interaction with a gay gang and chose, instead, to leave him in the arms of these "quite dangerous" men.

The boy's father is distraught and desperate. But the police, it seems, believe that the boy's sexual orientation makes him less worthy of salvation.

Inspector Hepburn's cavalier approach to this matter underlines the chilling effect of homophobia among the police and how even arms of the State created specifically to protect children from sexual and other abuse have decided to fold their arms. It cannot be right that children - for we understand that this 14-year-old's is not the only case - are left to fend for themselves amid sexual predators.

That sort of abandonment by the State may validate the misconception that the lives of boys, particularly those who indulge in at-risk behaviour, are of less worth and importance than others'. The police, therefore, would be complicit in class and gender discrimination, and play a not-insignificant role in the hardening of stigmas against sexual minorities.

That the boy may be gay or bisexual makes him just as, if not more, vulnerable to abuse as any other child. In fact, this newspaper posits that were the father's appeal about a girl living with men in a gully, CISOCA's reaction may have been more strong-willed and definitive; it would not have responded so limply and shrugged its shoulders.

The fact that Superintendent Ross-Stewart hasn't, at least publicly, reprimanded Inspector Hepburn and disavowed her views as anathema to the philosophy and policy of that sensitive agency, contributes to a deficit in trust and damages CISOCA's credibility.

Should Supt Ross-Stewart want to repair the damage done to CISOCA's image, this newspaper implores that she and her middle-tier leadership be more objective, sensitive and compassionate in the pursuit of the organisation's remit.