PM vows to protect kids
Declaring that too many children are being subjected to heart-rending violence and physical, sexual and emotional abuse, often carried out by family members and other persons they trust, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller last night reiterated her Government's commitment to an immediate and firm response.
"Cabinet last week had a lengthy discussion on the matter," Simpson Miller said in a broadcast to the nation focusing on issues affecting children.
"As a result, the Cabinet has approved a submission from the minister of justice to, among other things, prescribe harsher penalties for persons who murder, rape or commit other serious violent offences against children."
The move is one which was first announced by de facto Information Minister Sandrea Falconer last week and requires that the victim's status as a child be treated as an aggravating feature resulting in a harsher sentence on conviction.
Simpson Miller also noted yesterday that Cabinet approved a proposal for those cases to be given priority treatment in the trial list with respect to scheduling and disposal.
"Work is also under way for legislation to be passed to create a new offence of parental neglect. When this comes into effect, a parent whose child is found in circumstances consistent with inadequate parental care and attention can be charged and tried for parental neglect."
Such circumstances would include children found unsupervised on the streets or other public places late at night, or a child found living with an adult where the arrangement exposes the child to the risk of sexual or other abuse.
"Every single one of us must make the safety and security of Jamaica's children our personal priority," Simpson Miller said.
"Parents, guardians, teachers, aunts, uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers must see the safety and security of our children as their responsibility."