The Government’s chief legal advisor has proposed that a greater burden of accountability with added penalties be placed on parents who abuse their children.
Stating that he strongly supports a formal system of putting heavier responsibility on parents to protect and care for their children, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite told Barbados TODAY this afternoon he would like to see stiff penalties imposed for neglect. “We need to move into a culture where parents are penalized for neglecting their children, because I don’t hear any discussion about that,” Brathwaite said.
He noted that because this was more than a criminal justice matter, he would have to meet with his colleague, Minister of Social Care Steve Blackett, who is responsible for the Child Care Board (CCB), to discuss the way forward.
“These present issues that involve welfare, I actually have not sat down with the minister responsible to get a good sense of what their issues are and what recommendations that they have. Because it is not a criminal justice issue, it goes way beyond that; it’s really a social issue that they have to address to determine what’s the best measures that we can put in place to protect our children,” the Attorney General said.
“I certainly believe that we have reached a stage where parents have to be held accountable. I am of that firm view. If there is criminal damage for example, they should have to make good . . . You must remember these children are our children, they belong to all of us, and if a parent, by act or omission, causes harm to these children, eventually, it means the state has to step in and should step in from early. But more over, I don’t think a parent should be excluded from being called to account affecting their child.”
Brathwaite said that children were currently being treated like property in Barbados. “So the parent [says] ‘it is their child, so what? It is not his child’. The child is a Barbadian citizen, it belongs to all of us. And therefore if you cause harm to the child, moreso if you are the parent that causes the harm, you should be held accountable. I honestly believe that.”
Asked if there is not already a system in place to make parents accountable, the Attorney General said it needed to be formalized. “You hear anecdotal stories of parents not pursuing matters [of sexual abuse]. All of these are wrong. For example, someone gets a minor pregnant and they [parents] not pursuing it because the man has promised he is going to look after the child. All of these things I have a problem with.”
The Attorney General also rejected suggestions by some people that the Child Care Board was not doing its job in responding to reports of abuse.
He said he was satisfied the officers of that department were hardworking, are called out at all hours of the day and night and they respond.
“It is unfortunate that we have had these couple of incidences that have highlighted some deficiencies. There is no perfect department in Barbados. What they have to do is to learn from where the deficiencies are identified and see how we can cover the gaps. That’s what they have to do,” he added.
“I wouldn’t agree that they are not doing their job,” the Government’s chief legal advisor told Barbados TODAY.