Crime Chief Leslie James is advising the woman who has accused a detective at the Bartica Police Station of trying to dissuade her from making a report of sexual abuse committed on her minor child, blaming her for the assault and watching a game of cricket while the child recounted her ordeal, to make a report to the Office of Professional Responsibili-ty (OPR) or to his office.
James, who only became aware of the issue when contacted by this newspaper, said he would make his office open to the woman today. He later indicated that he had checked with the commander of the division who said he only learnt of the issue after he read the woman’s account in yesterday’s edition of the Stabroek News.
“Any case of misconduct or excess committed by a police officer has to be investigated and the mother should report the matter to the OPR or she can also come to my office,” the Crime Chief told this newspaper.
While this newspaper was unable to make contact with the mother, her husband said they would be following up to make an official report.
The woman had recounted on Sunday from Bartica that while her daughter was detailing her ordeal, the officer was watching a cricket match on television and he kept asking the child to repeat some of the allegations because he could not hear above the loud audio of the television set. It was not until the community’s welfare officer visited the station and turned down the television set, that the child was able to relate her ordeal. The mother also spoke of the officer—said to be the head detective of the station’s Criminal investigation Department (CID)—attempting to dissuade her from making the report.
“He tell me how is years this thing will tek and show me nuff paper that he said is cases and how is nuff wuk they have to do then send it to the DPP and all kinds of things like he don’t want me report the matter…,” she said.
However, the woman said after she insisted that a report be taken and the officer then blamed her for the act. “[Name of the officer] say how I shouldn’t leave me girl child and go and work because girl children must be near them mother and how is me mek that happen,” the angry mother related.
The five-year-old girl along with a six-year-old girl and five-year-old boy – all cousins – have related that the reputed husband of a relative had repeatedly sexually abused them over a period of time. Medical examinations of the girls have confirmed that they were abused.
The parents of the children are also up in arms because the police have released the 22-year-old suspect following the elapse of the 72-hour period that the police can legally keep a person in custody without charge and he has since disappeared from the community. The police have also indicated that the file is now with the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Meanwhile, a knowledgeable source yesterday told this newspaper that there are several cases that are now stalled because the accused has disappeared after being released by the police following the expiration of the 72 hours.
The source pointed out that there are sometimes some “clear cut cases” which the police can quickly investigate to ensure that the accused is placed before the court but instead they insist that the case be sent to the office of the DPP—a process that takes time.
It is believed that with the establishment of the pilot project of the first ever ‘one stop shop’ centre—where victims of child sex abuse are facilitated the opportunity to make one statement which would be recorded by police, child care officers, and NGO officials among others—this issue would be addressed.
Stabroek News understand that the pilot centre, which is located in Georgetown, is up and running and that the process is being closely monitored by the Office of the DPP to ensure that it keeps within the confines of the law. This is to ensure that statements are not thrown out when the case reaches the court. No report made via this process has yet reached the court, but sources have said that there are victims who are being interviewed and these are being recorded by camera. The camera system is also being tested and it is hoped that soon that similar centres would be set up in other regions.
In January of this year 70 professionals and service providers from government agencies and civil society were trained in forensic interviewing of survivors of sexual abuse and multi-disciplinary responses to sexual abuse.
Officials from this training programme are the ones involved in the pilot project.
The training was a collaboration between the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security, and non-governmental organisations, Forward Guyana and ChildLink Inc with support from UNICEF.
It was facilitated by international facilitators in the field of the child advocacy and was said to be pivotal to operationalising aspects of the Sexual Offences Act, 2010. In September 2013, the Ministry of Labour and non-governmental organisations, Forward Guyana and ChildLink Inc signed a Memorandum of Understanding, to establish Guyana’s first Child Advocacy Centre. The Child Advocacy Centre (one stop shop) is a child friendly environment staffed by forensic interviewers, counsellors and parenting skills educators. It is expected to lead the way in ensuring that survivors of sexual abuse only have to relate their experience once. This mechanism is seen as an opportunity to reduce trauma and any fear of victimisation or stigma.