Wed | May 27, 2020

12-y-o traumatised by airport body search

Published:Wednesday | December 31, 1969 | 7:00 PM

Laura Redpath, Senior Gleaner Writer

The Airports Authority of Jamaica is investigating a mother's claim that her 12-year-old daughter's privacy was violated at Kingston-located Norman Manley International Airport's security checkpoint.

The mother, who The Gleaner has chosen not to name to protect her daughter's identity, filed a complaint with the Airports Authority, noting that a female security officer asked the child to remove her pants and underwear following an upper-body pat-down search.

In her email to Lieutenant Commander John McFarlane, director of aviation security, the mother wrote: "(The officer) then questioned her about her menses, then told her to reclothe herself."

The mother, who expressed shock and concern, said her daughter experienced embarrassment and trauma.

"I would like to prevent this so it doesn't happen to another minor," she told The Gleaner yesterday. "If I was there, you would read about me being locked up."

The child was travelling on an early Monday morning flight to Fort Lauderdale with her father and a relative.

"My daughter's father asked if he could be with her and the officer told him no. When my cousin asked, as she is a woman, she was also told no.

"It was when the officer saw (my daughter's) sanitary pad in her panty that she asked her to put her clothes back on," the mother said.

Privacy violated

The mother said she was appalled at what her daughter went through, and would now tell her child to be obedient to no one except her parents.

"My poor little daughter had to put herself through that," she said, also noting that she had not received a response from McFarlane.

However, McFarlane told The Gleaner yesterday that what the child experienced was a close body search and the Airports Authority was "aggressively" pursuing the claim.

"Anybody can be searched," he said, noting there was no age restriction. "Unfortunately, we've seen incidents where two-year-olds ingested cocaine for trafficking. It is very sad."

Complaint sent to OCA

He was unwilling to comment whether the child should have been accompanied by a guardian when she was searched.

"I need to investigate this before I can comment on that," he said.

Meanwhile, the mother also filed a complaint with the Child Development Agency, which then referred the matter to the Office of the Children's Advocate (OCA).

Mary Clarke, the children's advocate, said the investigations officer received the report yesterday afternoon and would be gathering information to present to the OCA's lawyer who will then advise the agency on what to do.

"This is standard procedure," she said. "All I can say at this point is that people who are working with children be trained in the Child Care and Protection Act," she said.