Barbadians who fail to report suspected cases of child abuse could be liable to up to a year in jail and hefty fines. And anyone making a false report of child abuse could face a similar fate.
Minister of Social Care Steve Blackett, who today led debate on the Domestic Violence (Protection Orders) (Amendment) Act, 2016, indicated that the legislation would make it a criminal offence if someone who “attends to, examines or otherwise interacts” with children neglects to report cases of child abuse.
“A person who attends to, examines or otherwise interacts with a child and is aware or has reasonable cause to suspect that the child is a victim of domestic violence, shall immediately notify the Child Care Board or a member of the Police Force of that suspicion,” Section 19A (I) of the amended law reads.
Blackett explained that anyone who is aware or has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is a victim of domestic violence and fails to notify the Child Care Board or a member of the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) would be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine of $5,000 or imprisonment for a term of 12 months, or both. In addition, anyone who knowingly and maliciously makes a false, inaccurate or misleading statement to the Child Care Board or the RBPF, alleging that a child is a victim of domestic violence will face the same penalty if found guilty.
Statistics provided by the Minister showed that between 2002 and 2015 there were 3,250 cases of physical abuse of children and over 2,800 cases of sexual abuse. During the same period there were more than 7,800 cases of child neglect, over 1,300 cases of emotional abuse and 42 cases of abandonment.
The issue of child abuse was brought to the fore last year after 12-year-old Shemar Weekes was found hanging at his home in what was later ruled a suicide, and the death of six-year-old Jahan King of blunt chest and abdominal trauma.