Sexual offences just behind murders in Home Circuit Court

JAMAICA’S Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn was appalled yesterday as she lamented that sexual offences accounted for the second highest number of cases currently before the Home Circuit Court, just behind murder which accounts for 546 cases.

Llewellyn was speaking to the Jamaica Observer following the official opening of the Hilary Term of the Home Circuit Court, when she highlighted that sexual offences has always followed closely behind murder, but said the novel coronavirus pandemic as well as widespread depravity was keeping the numbers high.

Sexual offence cases traversed from last term to the new term amounted to 301. Twenty Four new cases were committed yesterday for sexual offences, while 22 new cases were admitted for murder and other serious and violent offences.

Of the cases traversed for sexual offences, rape accounted for 191 cases. Sexual intercourse with a person under 16 years accounted for 62 cases, buggery, 18, while grievous sexual assault, accounted for 10. Sexual touching and gross indecency accounted for four each. There were three cases of incest. Attempted rape, possession of child pornography and indecent assault accounted for two cases each, while carnal abuse, sexual intercourse with a mentally disordered person and householder encouraging sexual intercourse with a person under 16 accounted for one case each.

“Cases traversed for sexual offences is a big chunk. It is only murder that is more than sexual offences. Before COVID it was always like that, but when I talk to other prosecutors and we look at the numbers and the types of offences we are seeing and what is undergirding it, I think the authorities need to take a very serious look at their strategies that inform policy. I think they need to have a joined-up approach. You need to have an equivalent like what you have on the National Task Force on Human Trafficking.

“You need to have a sort of sustained public education like what you have for HIV. You need to have targeted intervention in some of these communities. In other words, you need to have a national task force made up of stakeholders, where they meet once every two months to form policy and strategies informed by empirical data across the board in terms of each parish so that if you see that you have an excess.”

Before COVID-19, Llewellyn said her office noticed that there were three high schools in a particular parish, which she declined to name, that experience a high rate of sexual activity between boys and girls and on school grounds. She pointed to depravity as the leading cause of children ending up in abusive situations.

“We see a sort of enhanced depravity. I just came back from Westmoreland and I was almost traumatised. It is the first time I was going to Westmoreland and I was traumatised by some of the cases I saw. All of us as prosecutors are seeing a little jump coming in during the COVID time in terms of the statistics, but invariably, 90 per cent of the time it is people in the same family, neighbours and people in the same big yard, the children know who they are.

“What we are noticing is that a lot of the kids are highly sexualised. When you check it, social media and the access to porn is the cause. These children see nothing in their body parts. Based on what one of my senior deputies have been saying is that the people see it as just a little sex, but they are not fully appreciating that a lot of girls suffer in terms of not being put on a path that they can achieve their potential unless there is direct intervention or removed from the environment.

“Sometimes the abuse is taking place in plain sight. What we are seeing is the level of depravity, and it is so widespread in a lot of areas where you have low socio-economic conditions. What it does is enhance the dysfunctional nature of that particular family structure,” Llewellyn said.

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