The legal advisor to the Barbados Child Care Board (CCB) is upset that sexual abuse cases involving minors are taking months, sometimes years, to be heard by the law courts.
Queen’s Counsel Beverley Lady Walrond warned today that when child abuse cases were delayed for long periods, the complainants stood to be re-victimized by having to relive their traumatic ordeal many years later.
Complaining that preliminary inquiries take too long, she called on members of the Royal Barbados Police Force to speed up the process.
“There was a little seven-year-old child who went to school and could not sit down because she had been sexually attacked by her grandmother’s boyfriend. It took the courts, over 30 adjournments before that seven-year-old was heard, and it went on over two years and more. And no less than a Queen’s Counsel, when the time came at the preliminary inquiry, two and whatever years after, started to cross examine this little infant who by that time couldn’t tell anybody about date, time, even year that this had happened. And so, it was dismissed at this point,” Walrond said.
The legal advisor also referred to a case in which a man was arrested for having sex with a young girl at a wooden house, witnessed by several adults who carried out a citizen’s arrest. She said that incident occurred on a Saturday and by Monday morning the mother of the minor went to court and announced that she did not want to pursue the case.
“One of the things that has always upset me [about that case] is that in the report to the police, at the time, the young man who first raised the alarm said he had done it because he had seen that same man coming with little girls, and little boys on his bike and he couldn’t understand why,” she explained.
“So we have to be careful. Because when we don’t act swiftly, we are exposing other children because pedophilia is known to be a very difficult thing to cure,” she added.
Waldron spoke this morning on The Legal Considerations and Responses in Managing Child Abuse at a Child Abuse Management Workshop at the Savannah Hotel, Hastings, Christ Church.
Addressing the participants who included several police, welfare and probation officers, Minister of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development Steve Blackett said annually, more than 1,000 children were referred to the Child Care Board for intervention.
He said during the period of 2014 to 2015, 1,171 children were referred, while during 2013 and 2014, 1,045 children were referred.
Between 2010 and 2011, 1,187 children were referred to the Board, compared to 1,184 between 2011 to 2012 and 1087 between 2012 to 2013.
“These are indeed significant numbers and should be of concern to all Barbadians,” said Blackett, who pointed out that the statistics did not tell the whole store since not all cases of child abuse were reported to the authorities.
“What we must bear in mind is that sometimes families who seem to have it all from the outside may be experiencing different realities behind closed doors,” he further acknowledged.
The workshop organized by CCB and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), is considering strategies for appropriate intervention and treatment of abused children.