Thu | Aug 17, 2017

Trust betrayed - Policemen, pastors main 'high-profile' sex predators, CISOCA head tells committee

Published:Thursday | February 2, 2017 | 2:00 AMJovan Johnson

The head of the Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA), Enid Ross-Stewart, told a committee of the nation's Parliament yesterday that pastors and policemen - two groups in which the nation places great trust - are among the main 'high-profile' perpetrators of sex offences against children.

This revelation, according to a senior Christian pastor, is another example of the breakdown of values in Jamaica.

The disclosure comes as public spotlight remains on the church community following the recent arrests and charge of three pastors from the Moravian Church in Jamaica for alleged sex offences.

"We have constantly arrested high-profile members of the society, and, in particular, the Church. The Church and policemen are really our two highest, high-profile persons. The Church and police. Yes, my colleagues," Ross-Stewart, a superintendent of police, yesterday told a resurrected joint-select committee of Parliament that is reviewing Jamaica's sex laws.

For Gender Affairs Minister Olivia Grange, "it's distressing but not surprising".

Ross-Stewart did not give much data on the number of cops and gospel preachers implicated in the sex offences, and the Reverend Garnet Roper, president of the Jamaica Theological Seminary, says that the data are necessary.

But he said that the abuse of children requires attention. "Sexual abuse of minors is a deeply entrenched social and psychological problem. It reflects a deterioration in the family structure; it reflects a deterioration in the psychology of men." But, he said that the police should not "cherry-pick" cases to pursue.

The CISOCA head said that last year, her office received 1,094 reports of alleged sexual intercourse involving underage persons. Of that number, 664 reports came from Kingston. Most of the perpetrators were adult men.

However, she lamented that the conviction rate was among the lowest compared with other categories of sex offences. "We have a very high rate of arrest and conviction for rape. But the under-16 sex - the young girls, really - they are into the sex, for whatever reason, and so they mislead the police. The rape, they tell you everything about it because they feel they were properly abused, but the under-16 sex, they really do not."

She also said that there was a lack of supporting mechanisms and coordination among government agencies to respond to the situation. Under-reporting and family members being complicit in the abuses were also noted as hindrances.

Yesterday, the United Nations Country Team presented 11 recommendations for how to improve the four laws under review. On the age of consent, the UN team, led by Mark Connolly, said that it did not see the need to modify the age of consent, which is at 16 years.

"Raising the age of consent may not necessarily have a preventive or deterring effect on perpetrators and victims as the current situation proves, among other reasons, because the enforcement presents numerous difficulties."

The UN has also sided with the Office of the Children's Advocate for the decriminalisation of "sexual experimentation" among underage children, especially those who are close in age.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com