20-year-old rape case lingers in St James court
Christopher Thomas, Gleaner Writer
LIKE IT was last year, sexual offences topped the list of cases that are down for mention in the current Michaelmas sitting of the St James Circuit Court, which had its ceremonial opening in front of the Montego Bay Resident Magistrate's Court on Tuesday.
While not speaking specifically to any set of cases, presiding High Court justice Pauline Williams said the level of crime in St James, which was on a downward trend last year, is again spiking.
"St James was on track for reducing the number of matters before this court, and now, they are going back up," Williams lamented during her opening address to Tuesday's sitting of the Circuit Court.
The list of sexual offences, which numbers 34 of 68 cases down for mention, is topped by a rape case which occurred 20 years ago. The list also includes 21 cases of sex with persons under the age of 16.
In last year's Michaelmas sitting, the St James Circuit Court presided over 21 cases related to sexual offences, out of a total of 38 cases.
CHANGE AGE OF CONSENT
Commenting on the large number of sexual offence cases, noted western Jamaica-based child and family therapist, Dr Beverly Scott, said the issue of sexual offences against underage persons could be tackled by clarifying whether the complainants in these cases are being sexually active close to the age of consent, which is 16 in Jamaica.
"I am thinking that, if these children are close to 16 years old, it could be a situation where they are saying they are 16," said Scott.
"In my experience, a number of 16-year-old girls believe they must have sex at 16, because the law says they can have sex at 16; not considering that they are not mature enough or responsible enough. I think there needs to be some amount of clarification in terms of that," she said.
"If the law says that a child is not an adult and you cannot turn a child out of your house before the child gets to 18, then the age of consent should be commensurate with that," continued Scott. "The age of consent and the age of responsibility … should be the same."