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Harsher penalties coming for child killers

Published:Wednesday | July 22, 2015 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Justice Minister Mark Golding

Following a vow made my Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to develop more stringent laws to deal with child killers, Justice Minister Mark Golding has indicated that a proposal, which was taken to Cabinet, was approved and legislation is to be drafted.

Simpson Miller was speaking against the background of the increasing levels of violence and sexual offences being committed against the nation's children.

In an interview with The Gleaner, Golding noted that drafting instructions had been given for legislation to be developed to punish criminals who commit heinous crimes against children, adding that policy would be pursued diligently.

Children's Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison noted that she was pleased with the progress, but indicated that she would be watching keenly.

"I think it is a good first step. If we can have a comprehensive legislation that speaks to children, when criminal offences are committed against them, that, for me, is a very interesting step. It would be nice to see what is being proposed and what those penalties will be," she said.

Opposition Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, however, told The Gleaner that issues relating to vulnerable groups in society require a collaborative approach.

More than legislation

"Harsher penalties should be part of the solution, but it cannot be the only solution. We have a broader concern because issues of rape, sexual assault as well as underage sex are complex things which will not be solved with only legislation. The Child Care and Protection Act criminalises instances where children are in danger, or instances where persons fail to report these things, but the question is whether these laws are being enforced," Johnson Smith said.

"Issues of parenting, in addition to what exactly is being done in the schools, are topics that must be addressed to ensure that children understand respect. We also have to ensure that age-appropriate information is available to educate students about their sexuality. We need to show these criminals that we are serious as a country and that there is zero tolerance to violation of any kind," the senator declared.