Justice ministry slams Observer

The Ministry of Justice has slammed the Jamaica Observer for aspects of a story published on Wednesday, May 20, headlined ‘Sexual savagery’, and reporting on the number of children falling victim to sex crimes since March when restrictions were put in place to stem the spread of COVID-19.

According to the ministry, the information presented by the Observer from an interview with executive director of the Victim Services Division Osbourne Bailey is a gross misrepresentation of the facts and figures presented by him.

Said the statement: “The Justice Ministry writes with regard to the article ‘Sexual Savagery’ which is carried on the cover of the Observer on Wednesday, May 20, 2020.

“We express our deep dismay at quotes and perceptions which were purported to be representative of an interview with Osbourne Bailey, executive director of the Victim Services Division at the Ministry.

“Having reviewed the recording of the interview, it is clear that the Observer has grossly misrepresented facts and figures presented by the executive director as follows:

1. “High number of children fall victim to sex crimes since COVID-19 restrictions started in March”.

Mr Bailey was explicit in his explanation that there was actually a decline in the number of clients seen during March.

2. “Sexual predators have gone on a rampage since the novel coronovirus (COVID-19) restrictions started in March, assaulting a number of children who were forced to stay home after Government ordered school shut in the face of the pandemic.”

At no point in the interview did Mr Bailey state, or allude to, a rampage, or to the “sexual savagery” attributed to him in paragraph 5 of the article. On the contrary, he indicated, as noted above, that his figures do not substantiate that claim.

3. “According to Bailey, of the just over 700 victims who came into contact with the division in March, 368 were new, while for the month of April there were 379 new cases” which segues to “The crimes that are associated with these numbers are a wide range of sex-related crimes, which is a cause for alarm.”

“This is a horrifying misrepresentation [as] 379 represents the total number of new victims seen in April across all areas of crime.

“Additionally, Mr Bailey expressed no alarm at the figures, as they actually represent a 32 per cent decrease over the same period in 2019.”

“The Ministry of Justice registers its deep concern at the unapologetic contravention of the journalistic standards of accuracy and truth evidenced in this story, particularly concerning one of our most vulnerable groups, at this critical time in our nation’s history.”

Editor’s note: There was no intent to convey that the division has been seeing an increase in the numbers of sex crimes against children in the period referred. What the article conveyed was that, instead of any truth or evidence being borne out to speculations that the stay-at-home order would result in more domestic violence-related incidents, the division was instead seeing more victims of sex crimes coming forward than victims of domestic violence-related crimes.

It is understood that this is not an increase but rather that these cases are what were being reported more than or as against the other cases that were brought to the attention of the division.

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