Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Pastors, lawyers among proposed groups legally mandated to report child abuse

Published:Wednesday | May 10, 2017 | 5:00 AM

Pastors are among a proposed group of professionals the Child Development Agency (CDA) has recommended be legally mandated to report their knowledge or suspicion of child abuse or neglect.

The development comes amid increased public glare on ministers of religion and their interaction with minors, with several now facing the courts on charges of sex abuse of underage children.

Yesterday, the CDA presented a list to a parliamentary committee that is reviewing the country's sex-offence laws, saying it was time to widen the list of people who interact with children and are likely to bring them in contact with evidence of abuse.

The proposed group includes pastors, lawyers, Jamaica Constabulary Force personnel, and coaches of children's sports or teams that include children. Community and youth workers, as well as animators and persons working with clubs and voluntary organisation that target children, are also included.

"There is no clear rationale as to why doctors, psychologists, teachers, guidance counsellors or hospital administrators should have a duty that is not extended to attorneys, police officers or ministers of religion," the CDA said.

The agency said recent sexual abuse allegations within church denominations "are an indication of the need for clear guidance, procedures and protection mechanisms for whistle-blowers".

It is why the CDA is suggesting the law be amended to exempt from criminal prosecution, any of the prescribed persons, such as a doctor who made a report but still provided services to a child.