Police confirm Johnson Smith’s claim of harassment e-mail

LEADER of Government Business in the Senate Kamina Johnson Smith was being sexually harassed by an Opposition counterpart through a series of e-mail, a police source has confirmed.

An investigation was launched into the incident which reportedly occurred in “early October of 2018”, a police source told the Jamaica Observer yesterday. The investigation involved detectives assigned to the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s (JCF) Criminal Investigation Branch and the Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA).

“It was reported. It was thoroughly investigated over a period of time. Acting Deputy Police Commissioner McArthur Sutherland brought on board a senior investigator from CISOCA to help marshal the investigation. During the investigation, the content of the e-mail would have been examined [and] assessed, and it was established that her discomfort was justified. There was no question that she had reason to be concerned; though the things that were said were not substantive, they could be seen as veiled,” the police source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.

Johnson Smith, during last Friday’s sitting of the Senate, said that she had notified the police of threatening e-mail sent to her by a member of the Opposition; it was investigated and the name and information of the alleged perpetrator revealed to her.

However, she said that she did not make the matter public, as she was concerned about the effect of the revelation at that time.

“I think about the fact that there was a member, a colleague of yours on that side (Opposition), who had started to send me harassing e-mail, who I had to report to the police. I was even advised [by the police] to stop running [in the mornings] for a period of time,” she revealed.

“The police were clear that cybercrime was being committed. It was clear that I was in fear, and they recognised it as justifiable, and I decided not to press charges. I decided not to go public with it either. And I struggled with it because I said this could be helpful for women to see someone taking action when they feel vulnerable,” said Johnson Smith.

“If I felt vulnerable, imagine someone who did not have the kind of support that I do. Then I thought about the politics and the drama and I didn’t [report it]. And I don’t consider myself a disempowered woman,” she added.

The police source confirmed Johnson Smith’s account of the steps taken following the e-mail, noting that she was advised to adjust her schedule.

“There was an intention to reach out to the subject, but he was off the island for a significant period of time. But all that she said in Parliament is exactly how it happened, and [we] have the series of e-mail to prove it,” the source told the Observer.

“She did have concerns about public perception and how to handle it, but [we] didn’t force her to push it further,” the source added, confirming that it was Johnson Smith who decided against pressing charges.

On Monday, Opposition Senator Donna Scott Mottley urged Johnson Smith, the country’s minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, to make public the content of the e-mail sent by the Opposition.

Scott Mottley, who is also an Opposition senator and former leader of Opposition business in the Senate, said while the debate on domestic violence was ongoing with regards to Government Member of Parliament George Wright, who has been embroiled in a domestic violence scandal, Johnson Smith in her closing remarks indicated that she had been a victim of harassment from a colleague.

“She referenced an occasion of harassment. She referred to an Opposition senator being the perpetrator. She appeared to be very traumatised by it. She said she had reported it to the police and that she was concerned about her safety. We weren’t quite clear what she was saying, but I was stunned by the revelation. I could see how she was feeling.

“So, I made some enquiries because, certainly, I was the leader for some time, so I made some enquiries of the team I then led to ensure that they had not harassed her in any way. She has been in the Senate for a very long time, and many persons would have sat with her, and I think it is very important for her to say who the harasser was, but, more importantly, to release the e-mail correspondence so that we can all make a determination,” Scott Mottley told the Observer during an interview.

She said for a long time she and Johnson Smith have spoken about violence against women and sexual harassment and, as such, she should lead by example and out her alleged harasser.

“Both of us are members of the joint select committee on sexual harassment, and I think that we have to lead on these matters. We can’t be telling women ‘we’re protecting you’, or this is what we want to do, or ‘we’re setting up shelters to support you’. We cannot be telling them that ‘we’re doing legislation to make it better and easier for you’, and then we have an opportunity to do something and we don’t.

“So, I really think she needs to say more. She cannot just make that statement, literally breakdown in the Parliament, and then not follow up, and that’s what I want her to do,” said Scott Mottley.

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