Opposition Spokesperson on Youth, Lisa Hanna is calling on the Government to urgently enact the recommendations to amend the Child Care and Protection Act and the Criminal Justice (Administration) Act that were intended to impose stiffer penalties for persons who murder, rape or commit other serious violent offences against children, and to take the necessary administrative steps to ensure that those cases be afforded priority scheduling and disposal in the Courts.
Her call comes in the wake of yet another shooting of a five year old child in Deham Town yesterday. She added that her administration took very seriously the number of children that were being murdered and abused, and the circumstances in which they were killed, and took measures to amend the existing legislation to impose harsher penalties to persons who committed crimes against our nation’s children.
Ms. Hanna said that the concern extended to the instances of parental neglect reported by the Child Development Agency, the Office of the Children’s Registry and Jamaica Constabulary Force’s Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA) which exposed many of these children to violence and sexual abuse.
One such recommendation was or stiffer penalties for persons who murder, rape or commit other serious violent offences against children, treating the victim’s status as a child as an aggravating feature resulting in a substantial uplift in the sentence on conviction.
Hanna also condemned the lack luster approach on behalf of the current administration to find coordinated solutions towards the violence against our children, as they have not seen it fit to implement The National Plan of Action for an Integrated Response to Children and Violence.
Hanna said this plan was advanced during her tenure and provides a coordinated and structured approach to addressing the key issues and challenges pertaining to children as victims, perpetrators and witnesses of acts of violence and abuse.
Hanna said the NPACV, utilises a multi-sectoral approach that would trigger urgent responses. She said that such a programme was necessary if Jamaica
was to fulfill our obligations under Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as other local and international instruments.
Ms. Hanna stated that The Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Suppression and Punishment) Act, the Criminal Justice Administration Act and Child Care and Protection Act were all amended to facilitate the new recommendations and introduced in the House in January earlier this year by the Most Honourable Portia Simpson Miller. However, the Parliament was dissolved before they could have been enacted.
Ms. Hanna pointed out her grave concern and regret that the current Administration has not seen the urgency to list these Bills as a priority for the Parliamentary year,neither have they committed the resources to implement the NPACV, therefore, one is left only to assume that they are not serious about tackling the perpetrators who commit heinous crimes against our nation’s children.
Hanna said her previous calls for the Government to act have gone unnoticed, however, she will continue on her quest, as incidents of crime against our children are the most egregious of all crimes: "Wemust be swift and urgent in sending a clear and unequivocal signal to the perpetrators and those negligent in the care and protection of our children, that the full force of the law will be brought against them so that we can stamp the monster of violence in our country."
Hanna expressed her sympathies to the family of the young five year old and prays for a full recovery.