The Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) today issued a stern warning that it would adopt a “zero tolerance” policy towards persons who harbour children reported missing or people who engage in sexual relations with juveniles.
Public Relations Officer Acting Assistant Superintendent David Welch warned that there are strict laws forbidding sex with underage children or providing refuge to those who run away from home, and those caught violating any of these laws would be placed before the courts.
“I must advise persons that if they willfully, knowingly harbour these persons, they can be prosecuted. Under our laws if anyone has sexual relations with a person under the age of 16, [there will be] a zero tolerance approach to those persons who engage in those types of behavior. Children must be children, our children must be protected,” Welch said in an interview with Barbados TODAY.
Six girls under the age of 16 were reported missing over the weekend. The minors, all from the Grantley Adams Secondary School, have since been found – five at the home of a St Michael man – and charged with wandering. Five of the six were also remanded to the Government Industrial School.
Another 14-year-old girl was also found at the weekend, more than a week after she went missing. It was not clear where she had spent the time, however, on a previous occasion she was found at the home of a St Michael man three days after she left home without word on her whereabouts. That man has since been charged with involvement with a minor.
“The Force would wish to advise adults that if they see children coming to their residence, they should inquire about their welfare and to take certain information from them so that they can find out if they are indeed missing from home. Failing to do this they can find themselves liable,” Welch stressed.
“We are making another appeal to residents and other members of the population that if they see any young person frequenting their neigbourhoods they should call the police.
“It is also recognized that these young persons sometimes associate with adults and these person lure these expectant young persons into crime and deviant behaviours,” the police spokesman said.
Welch explained that these cases absorb significant resources from the RBPF and affect its ability to deal with other issues.
Ten girls under the age on 16 have been placed on the police missing list so far this year.