No to bribery!
Green paper to deal with parents who sell out abused kids
Tough measures are in the works to help stamp out bribery in child abuse cases.
Legal consultant and UNICEF Children’s Champion Faith Marshall-Harris told a news conference this morning that one of the many recommendations in a green paper, which she was hired to prepare for Government on child and family-related matters, made provision for harsh and draconian measures to deal with persons who sold out children that were abused.
“I am trying to create a situation where we have a special court that deals with things to do with children, particularly things like child abuse, where there are mechanisms for ensuring it is sped up,” said Marshall-Harris, whose green paper is a review of all the laws related to children, women and families.
“I am actually asking that there be special social workers and counsellors attached to such a court; because one of the big fall-outs of child abuse is not just abuse itself, but what it does to the child in the long term. So counselling is necessary, and so there should be court-attached personnel to deal with that, and also taking a harsher, more draconian look at those persons who sell out,” the retired juvenile court magistrate insisted.
“One of our problems . . . even when the state prosecutes on these issues [child abuse], the prosecutors would have quite a difficult time, and is one of the things that is a sad story: that mothers and fathers would sometimes actually accept money from the abusers in order not to pursue the matter,” lamented the children’s advocate.
She reasoned that although the state was prosecuting, a virtual complainant was still required in order for the case to continue.
“And so if money has been accepted, and there will no longer be anybody going on the witness stand . . . to say this is what happened to me, or this is what happened to my child, then you don’t have a case,” she said, adding that “very often people don’t seem to understand that is in fact the issue”.
“Your hands will be tied by the fact that the virtual complainant has sold out.
“And sadly my colleagues have told me . . . that sometimes the money that passes hands could be as much as $10,000. It is one of the sad truths.”
Marshall-Harris noted that the green paper proposes, not only amendments to certain existing laws, but introduction of new ones.
“I have completed my part of it to this point. It’s still a green paper. I have made a number of recommendations as to how the state can deal with that situation also legally, to stop people accepting money.”
However, the former family magistrate said public education and social change were more important than legislation, in helping to prevent and tackle child abuse.
In fact, she argued that legislation should be a last resort.
“Let us deal with it before it comes to court. Let us do more prevention of child abuse or domestic abuse or whatever it is; and that can only happen, when we get people like the Kiwanis . . . getting out there in communities, saying, ‘Let’s stop this; this is what is happening to our children; this is what is happening to our women. Yes, it can be fought in various ways in the law court, but let us educate more people, against the need’.”