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Judicial CP - March 1999

Jamaica Observer, Kingston, 1 March 1999

Police, RM concerned about sex crimes in St Ann

By Devon Evans
Observer Correspondent

CRIMES involving sex and domestic violence in St Ann continues to be a major cause of concern.

Since January 1995, 143 cases of rape have been reported in the parish in addition to over 80 cases of carnal abuse. There has also been a rise in incest, indecent assault and buggery cases in St Ann.

Senior Resident Magistrate for St Ann Sarah James said children as young as 18 months were being sexually abused. She said that she had a frightening experience at the recent opening of the St Ann Circuit Court when the trial judge pointed out to her that 17 of the cases on the list for trial involved sexual offences. "It means something must be wrong in St Ann," she bemoaned.

The Senior Resident Magistrate, who was among the list of speakers at last Tuesday's launch of the St Ann rape investigation unit at the divisional headquarters of the St Ann police in St Ann's Bay, said the society needs to do all it can to prevent its members from committing these types of offences.

The St Ann rape investigation unit is the sixth to be launched in the island, and according to divisional commander, Deputy Superintendent Ionie Ramsey-Nelson, the aim is to bring about a reduction in sex crimes.

But Resident Magistrate James advised that the unit needs to concentrate on causes of sexual offences and not wait on the consequences; adding that the officers should get to the young women and give them all the necessary advice against becoming victims.

She also had some concern about the level of the investigations being done by some officers.

"I have seen good cases go down the drain because of poor preparation and poor investigation," she said.

The RM urged the police to become knowledgeable of the various laws and to interview their victims properly. "If the victim is a child he or she must be given special support."

Officer in charge of the Kingston rape investigation unit, Deputy Superintendent A Brown-Getton, said the penalty for sexual offences needs to be more drastic and recommended the return of the tamarind switch for convicted offenders. "Children are being demoralised and traumatised and we have to protect them," she said.

Giving statistics for sex offences islandwide, she reported that in 1997 there were 875 cases of rape and 745 cases of carnal abuse of which 40 per cent and 38 per cent respectively have been cleared up. Last year there were 880 cases of rape and 540 cases of carnal abuse islandwide with a clear ratio of between 49 and 51 per cent .

In St Ann there were 92 sexual offences, including 38 cases of rape and 28 cases of carnal abuse reported to the police in 1997.

Meanwhile, Assistant Commissioner of Police Jevene Bent said some of the incidents are not being brought to the attention of the police and that many times this decision is based on economic conditions including the threat of losing a sole bread winner.

"Violence against women and children is a major concern in Jamaica", she said, quoting figures from the Women's Crisis Centre which showed that for 1998, there were 5,147 calls and office visits to the centre for matters involving rape, incest and domestic violence. She challenged police officers to make sure they utilise all the options available to them in carrying out their investigations and to ensure that professionalism and good conduct are maintained at all times.

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