Child molesters continue to escape justice by bribing the parents of victims because the law has not found a way to stop them, according to a senior attorney-at-law.
Queen’s Counsel Ralph Thorne told last night’s Man Talk panel discussion organized by the Wesleyan Holiness Church at Cave Hill that the “deeply destructive” practice was a troubling one for the legal profession.
In recent times there have been calls for legislators to rewrite the Laws of Barbados to give the state greater responsibility for children, by making them wards of the state when they become victims of sexual abuse.
This would mean that prosecution of the crime would no longer rest in the hands of parents.
However, Thorne suggested that even if the relevant legislation were enacted, it would be difficult to stop the predators because parents continued to be complicit.
“I don’t know where the legislation is at in terms of forcing people to give evidence, but what I can tell you, is that is going to be tough to manage. If the child is abused and the mother tells the child not to give evidence, who is going to come and give it? Even if they force the child to go on the witness stand, who is going to make the child say something if the parent has already told them not to say anything? It is a very difficult creature to manage. So a lot of these issues remain immoral and deeply destructive to society, but the law has not found a creative way to manage them,” the senior attorney said.
The troubling issue of child molestation has surfaced here frequently, particularly as schoolgirls, who apparently run away from home, sometimes end up at the homes of much older men.
There have also been instances when videos emerge showing young girls engaging in sexual activity with adult males.
After one such video came to light two years ago, Minister of Education Ronald Jones complained of “sexual predators” within the island’s school system and issued a stern warning that the authorities intended to come down heavily on the culprits.
In a fiery address to the Lodge School’s Speech Day in April 2015, Jones had said his ministry would adopt a policy of zero tolerance towards any teacher found guilty of sexually exploiting students.
He said then he had received a photo via social media of a 13-year-old secondary school girl engaging in sex with a fully grown man whose face was hidden, while the girl’s was fully exposed.
“Should a 13 year old who should have been in school be sexually bludgeoned? Even if she were 16 years, should she be sexually bludgeoned and her face and her form displayed, but yet you cannot see the face of the male? That has to be deliberate,” he said then.
Former teacher and Member of Parliament for St Thomas Cynthia Forde has also voiced this concern in the House of Assembly about child molestation, complaining last April that there were too many paedophiles in Barbados walking around scot-free because they have high social status and connections.
“There are some hard back men who are taking advantage of our young children. Too many paedophiles are in this country walking around scot-free because they are somebody. They have a business; they are known by the minister; they are friends of the police, all kinds of nonsense and our children are falling through the cracks. When children are scarred through molestation and abuse in whatever form it remains with them forever,” Forde said then.
However, Thorne said last night that parents who accepted bribes from alleged child abusers were frustrating magistrates.
“In the courts a lot of magistrates discourage parents of abused children because there is always the suspicion that the parents take money from the accused person to settle the case. That happens quite often and it is a very tragic circumstance, which is difficult for the magistrates to manage because it is difficult to prove the transaction between the persons. The mother is not going to say that she took money but it happens,” Thorne said.
He also said some magistrates were quick to dismiss such cases “for want of prosecution because the magistrate just wants the court’s calendar to be a little lighter”.