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Huge penalty for negligent parents

Published:Wednesday | January 27, 2016 | 12:00 AMDaraine Luton

Parents and guardians who allow their children to be on the streets, unsupervised, after nine o'clock at nights, or cause them to be living with an adult in circumstances which expose them to substantial risk of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse, could be sent to prison for up to five years.

A bill, which seeks to amend the Child Care and Protection Act, which was laid in Parliament by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, proposes to further criminalise acts of neglect.

Among other things, a parent or guardian is deemed to have neglected a child if he acts in a manner likely to cause injury to the child.

The law is now being amended to hold a person responsible "where the child is found in any circumstances from which it can reasonably be concluded that the child has been deprived of adequate care and attention," such as being unsupervised in public places after

9 p.m., or is living with an adult in circumstances which expose them to substantial sexual, physical, or emotional abuse.

The bill is proposing that a Children's Court require a parent or guardian to exercise proper care and guardianship and to undertake and complete responsible parenting courses offered by the National Parenting Support Commission.

Meanwhile, the number of entities responsible for receiving information of child abuse is being expanded. Reports may now be made to the police, the government agency responsible for children and the Children's Advocate in addition to the Children's Registry which is now the sole authority. Such reports must immediately be sent to the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse.