by Linda Straker
- Public utterings can have long term effects on the child
- Ministry of Social Development will provide resources, finance, counselling
Social Development Minister Delma Thomas wants all those who are publicly writing and commenting about the sentence a 41-year-old man received after he pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting a 5-year-old should be conscious about the long-term effects these public utterings can have on the child.
“I will like to also say, that I understand it is a vexing issue and as mothers, we are also upset but we have to ensure with all the emotions that while we are speaking in the public domain that we do not create more harm than good on the child, and therefore I urge our people who are writing in social media, who are commenting, let us also think about the child and the effect it can have on her by what we are doing at present,” Thomas told the House of Representatives on Tuesday while speaking on the adjournment.
Explaining that her ministry has no influence in the judicial process, Thomas reminded the House that it will be reckless and irresponsible for her as a member of the executive to speak publicly on judicial matters.
“Mr Speaker you will appreciate that it will be reckless and irresponsible for the executive to make public comments on judicial matters. The ministry rightfully has no say or influence on the judicial process, our mandate is to work in the interest of families, particularly children and to try to assist families, guardians and the wider communities to make safer communities for all our children,” she said.
Thomas said that the Ministry of Social Development will provide the resources, finance, the counselling, whatever necessary to also help rescue children from troublesome situations and to help bring perpetrators to justice.
“We will never be satisfied until no child is at risk. We are aware that we are in a difficult struggle but one nonetheless, we are prepared to take up with energy and purpose. It is a responsibility we undertake, and it is a responsibility that we hope the wider community will share with us,” she said.
Speaking on the same issue, Clarice Modeste who is the Member of Parliament for St Mark, the constituency in which the incident occurred said though it’s an embarrassing situation, one thing is certain is that victims of such heinous crimes are encouraged and becoming more empowered to speak about this scourge in society.
“Victims are being given a voice, we are no longer silent on the matter and people have realised that it is a scourge that has to be addressed. It is an embarrassment to us, but nevertheless trying to keep it a secret will not handle the matter. I believe there are some laws in this country that need to be reviewed with great urgency,” she said.
“It is a wake-up call for everyone who has a responsibility to do more effectively and efficiently that justice can be served. The scourge of sexual abuse must be dealt with more effectively in our country,” she added.
On 29 March 2019, Mike Alexander of Waltham, St Mark was charged with one count of indecent assault for engaging in a none penetrative sex act with the child. The incident according to police reports occurred between October 2017 and October 2018. At the time the child was between 3 and 4 years of age.
At the first hearing of the matter in early April, Alexander pleaded guilty to the summary charge before the magistrate assigned to the area and after deliberations, some of which focus on his under developmental capacity, he was fined EC$3,200 and a suspended sentence to prison for 12 months. Failure to pay the fine will result in one-year imprisonment while as under the terms of the suspended sentence, if he engages in any form of criminal offence, he will serve another 12 months imprisonment.
“So basically, he has two years jail hanging over his head, he may not be imprisoned at Richmond Hill, but he is definitely under watch by law enforcement,” said one judicial official with inside knowledge of the case. Alexander is not the first to receive such a sentence for such an offence, and in Grenada, the Office of the Director Public Prosecution can appeal a sentence if it’s manifestly wrong with sentencing guidelines.
Sexual offence is not one of the records that cannot be expunged according to the rehabilitation offender’s legislation.
The mother who shared her emotional story with a USA-based social media platform which airs a daily talk show, felt that the justice system did not work in the best interest of the child because the accused did not receive a jail time sentence and the state will receive the EC$3,200.