Tue | Sep 26, 2017

Orville Taylor | Cover not our sins

Published:Sunday | January 15, 2017 | 1:00 AM

He who is without sin cast the first stone? Well, if you think such a disclaimer offers latex-like protection, then you have provoked this child to wrath, and I bend over backwards to no man, even if he is a man of the cloth.

True, I totally believe in the sanctity of the judicial norm that says that in a civilised society, an accused is innocent until proven guilty, but Parson better mek sure that it is not true about him christening his 'pickney fuss'.

Sounding like a melding of the words morality and depravity, Moravian Pastor Rupert Clarke has been charged with having sex with a child, and according to the police's Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA), he is likely to be further arraigned. It matters not that he preaches the sweetest 'word' or WhatsApps Jesus on his Bible phone. No reference to Nazareth or Bethlehem will make him holy if he is guilty.

And never mind the sideshow of principal of the elite all-girls' school, Hampton, the stylish Heather Murray, making a politician-type faux pas by attempting to block out the camera when the 'man of God' was being photographed by one of my media colleagues. And while I admit that Murray is infinitely more photogenic than the accused, it was the one obvious mistake she made. Thus, it is my sincere hope that unless she is found to have committed any other breach under the Education Act or other statutes, the two-week leave of absence for her to pull her senses together should be the limit of her sanction.

My initial understanding was that the headmistress was standing in for the wife, who might have been too weak or revulsed by the allegations to bear any more, or who was simply trying to avoid the embarrassment of the severity of the charges and being herself scanned and her image made into a circus. In fact, by Murray's own admission, she was there in support of her friend, the ensconced or missing wife.

 

INTRIGUE DEEPENS

 

Now, in principle, there is nothing wrong with friends standing by their brethren in times of trouble. That is the essence of real friendship. The intrigue deepens, however, if there is the belief or knowledge on the part of the supportive friend that the arraigned person is guilty.

In such cases, depending on the type of crime, it could mean that my friendship was in itself a big deception because it was built on the premise that the now accused was something that he is not. For example, if you have a long-term friendship with a trusted 'brother' with whom you have even shared investments and thus income and for years, he has led you to believe that the money that he injected into your joint venture, and now the source of your pension, was from his legitimate agricultural activities. However, you subsequently discover that the police have been watching him like TVJ News for more than 10 years and he had no legal crops, but grew coca and marijuana for export. Now everyone thinks that you are a 'druggist', too, and you stand to lose not only your life savings, but also your squeaky-clean reputation, which you've cultivated for years. Is he a friend or a traitor?

 

ANOTHER ISSUE

 

There is another issue that traverses friendship and gives her, the wife, and other members of the church community absolutely no discretion. It is still unknown if other stories will leak out of the woodworks like the Bill Cosby cases. However, our Child Care and Protection Act (CCPA) only allows us to cover the face of the accused from the scrutiny of the cameras. It totally prohibits any attempt on the part of anyone to cover up even a suspected act of child abuse.

Let me get into teacher mode now. It doesn't matter whether the suspected molester or child abuser has actually committed the crime. That is the job for the police to act on and the court to determine. What the act declares is that whenever anyone has "information which causes that person to suspect ..." that a child is being abused, even with his/her consent, he or she shall report the matter to the authorities. In true neighbourly tradition, when country people could discipline other peoples' children and took responsibility for them. The CCPA has penalties for those who have their tangible suspicions and sit on them and do nothing.

Was the pastor simply giving the child a ride and parked? Is this simply a one-off 'innocent' lapse in judgment? After all, I am not privy to the police statement, but only they know what a 'compromising position' is. Honestly, I am totally incredulous that someone who is as high profile as this man of the cloth would not have run into trouble before, if he is guilty. Given that CISOCA has information that could lead to other charges based on offences that it believes occurred earlier, how come no one else noticed? This is particularly unnerving.

Still, since CISOCA now has justified reasons to pursue other charges against Clarke, will it also deepen its investigations to see whether there was a cover-up? Remember, under the CCPA, the person doesn't have to be guilty; the observer merely needs to have a reasonable suspicion. And if he or she keeps the suspicion to himself or herself, jail time is possible whether or not the accused walks free.

Simply put, child abuse is not a private matter; it is the business and responsibility of all.

- Dr Orville Taylor, senior lecturer in sociology at the UWI and a radio talk-show host, is the author of 'Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets'. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and tayloronblackline@hotmail.com.