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Inform on child killers, says watchdog

Published:Tuesday | November 11, 2014 | 11:00 AM

Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter

Children's Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison wants increased vigilance on the part of Jamaicans to expose child killers, even as the country has recorded the murder of nearly 40 children since the start of the year.

The agency, with a mandate, among other things, to investigate reports of child abuse, abandonment and neglect, has been pushing for tougher penalties for persons who steal children and commit heinous crimes against them.

On the issue of child stealing, Gordon Harrison indicated that children above the age of 13 do not enjoy the same kind of protection under the Offences Against the Person Act as those above 13 years. "Only if a child is 13 and below will they benefit from that kind of protection by the law, and the penalty is very low," she added.

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The children's advocate charged that many persons are only willing to make anecdotal comments in relation to criminal acts against children but shy away from giving formal evidence which can be used in court to get a conviction.

"When it comes to taking that decision into the courtroom, our citizens have the habit of shying away because nobody wants to be seen as an informer," Gordon Harrison said. "It's a pervasive problem that we have in terms of crime solving in Jamaica."

Yesterday, founder of Hear the Children's Cry Betty, Ann Blaine, called on the police to carry out a thorough investigation into the death of seven-year-old Kalisha Cousins of Central Village in St Catherine, whose decomposing body was found last Friday. She went missing while on her way to school earlier in the week.

"It is deeply disturbing that a large number of these crimes have not been solved, and no one has been brought to account," Blaine added.

And Gordon Harrison reasoned that there should be a greater commitment on the part of parents to ensure that their children are delivered safely at school and collected at the end of the session.

She told The Gleaner that the Office of the Children's Advocate has been lobbying for increased resources to carry out more effective public education programmes across the country.