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Negligent parents of abused children being targeted

Published:Thursday | May 14, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Negligent parents of abused children are being targeted in a new-look legislation that proposes to put more bite in the battle against cruelty to the young and vulnerable.

While dire warnings have come from the Government that errant parents will not be spared, Information Minister Sandrea Falconer served notice that the wrath of the justice system is to be visited more ferociously on perpetrators of aggravated assault on children.

"Of deep concern (to the Cabinet) are the instances of parental neglect, which expose many of our children to violence and sexual abuse," said Falconer.

She added: "Cabinet has approved proposals to amend the Child Care and Protection Act and the Criminal Justice Administration Act.

Falconer told journalists yesterday that the Cabinet has approved amendments to the Child Care and Protection Act, to tighten the grip on rampant brutality to youngsters, with special features being, mandatory training and counselling of parents.

As such, Falconer disclosed that the Child Care and Protection Act will be amended to insert new offences of parental neglect and failure of an adult to report suspected exposure of a child to sexual or other abuse.

Falconer's announcement which coincides with Child Month celebrations, serves as the fulfilment of a vow by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller that her administrations would spare no effort in bringing down the legal axe on sexual predators and child murderers.

"Since the start of this year, we have seen the abuse and murder of a number of children in Jamaica," said Falconer. "The circumstances under which these children have been killed are disturbing," she added.

Stiffer penalties

Addressing journalists at this week's post-Cabinet press briefing, Falconer noted that the public had raised concerns and the matter had occupied the attention of the Cabinet.

"Cabinet has also asked that the necessary administrative steps be taken to institute stiffer penalties for persons who murder, rape or commit other serious violent offences against children," she said.

Said Falconer: "The victim's status, as a child, will be targeted as an aggravating feature, resulting in a substantial uplift in the sentence on conviction."

In keeping with the new strictures, efforts are being made to ensure that cases related to violence against children will be given priority attention, scheduling and disposal in the courts.

Maurice Bailey, director of Legal Reforms in the justice ministry, stressed that prioritising cases related to children will be emphasised. "Discussions are being held with the Chief Justice to see how this can be effectively done," said Bailey.

He said the laws will be amended to facilitate reporting of offences against children directly to the Office of the Children's Advocate, to the Child Development Agency (CDA) and the Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA).

"There will be a wider spread in all of the communities of Jamaica in terms of having access to points where suspected abuse of children can be reported," said Bailey.