Wards at risk from sex offenders

Dr. Carolyn Gomes (right), executive director of Jamaicans For Justice, addressing Observer reporters and editors at yesterday’s Monday Exchange as other officials look on.

KINGSTON — Efforts to prosecute child sex offenders in state-run children’s homes have been stumped by the soft-touch approach to apprehending men, some of them enjoying high profiles, a discussion yesterday revealed.

At the same time, the failure of some of those who work in the institutions to report crimes against girls has also contributed to offenders going unpunished.

The disclosures were made by Monsignor Gregory Ramkissoon, members of his Mustard Seed Communities and partner child-care specialists during a discussion on the issue of children in state care.

Moira Morgan of the Griffin Trust told journalists that Jamaica was failing its children, particularly its girls, as far as enforcing punishment on sex offenders was concerned.

The Griffin Trust – a United Kingdom-based organisation incorporated in 1990 – is already heavily involved with helping inner-city youth turn away from crime.

“When we look down that road, this is where I totally lose faith in Jamaica,” stated Morgan, herself a UK citizen.

“I can honestly say it was not under Gladys Brown, it was before her time, because I have seen where we have taken 12- and 13-year-old pregnant girls to CISOCA (Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse) and they will call the man concerned to invite him to an interview. If it was me and you they would arrest us,” Morgan said.

“Obviously it depends on who is abusing and where,” she added.

Ongoing reports say that girls who live in children’s homes are often abused by staff who either become physically involved in the activity or see things happening and keep quiet about it; and by outsiders, commonly referred to in the child-care fraternity as “fence men”.

Dr. Carolyn Gomes, head of local human rights group Jamaicans For Justice, corroborated a claim made by Morgan about the irregular activities in children’s homes.

“There is a particular children’s home – and I won’t call the name – but we were invited by the superintendent of children’s homes to a meeting with the known abusers and the police in order to try and persuade them to stop,” Gomes shockingly revealed.

“We pointed it out to the head of the CDA (Child Development Agency), and to her credit she moved to end the meeting, but we pointed out that to sit down with people that you know are abusing children is in breach of the Child Care and Prevention Act.

“This children’s home calls the people outside the fence – the fence men. They are well known for sexually abusing girls and, in fact, we have one particular case that happened last month where a child was raped in this place of safety,” Gomes said. (Observer)

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