More than half of the 564 cases that have been reported to the Sexual Offences Unit since it first opened four years ago, involve minors.
Constable Cliseena Butler, an officer stationed at the Unit gave a breakdown of the figures while speaking on SEARCHLIGHT’s Facebook live programme, The Press Room on Wednesday evening.
“…Since November 2018, we have a total of 564 crimes reported at the Unit. Out of those 564 crimes…a total of 281 persons have already been charged for sexual offences and from the period 2019 to 2020, we have already had 13 convictions, convictions that have reached to the High Court,” Butler said.
“We still have matters on trial at the Family Court, there are still matters going on at the High Court so as you can see, it’s a work in progress…60 per cent of those crimes that are reported involve minors.”
This week’s programme discussed ‘Child Sexual Abuse’ and how widespread the issue is in St Vincent and the Grenadines. The discussion also touched on whether citizens are doing everything possible to protect young Vincentians and ensure justice is served.
The constable listed a number of reasons why more persons have not been charged for sexual related crimes reported since 2018.
She explained that some matters were still under investigation while others have been dismissed.
“No fault of the police; there are some persons sometimes who don’t wish to go forward with the matter, maybe because of the system and going through court. Some victims are fearful of facing persons in court, some parents sometimes discourage people from giving evidence,” Butler said.
The officer added that the age of a defendant in some cases can also cause delay in charges being laid.
“…Maybe the defendant might be 8 or 11, and these matters have to go up for direction, charges have not been laid for some of these offences,” she said.
In the most recent conviction for a sexual related crime, a 35-year-old man was given a four-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to two counts of indecent assault of a minor under the age of 15; that victim is a four year old child.
But Butler noted that there are a number of issues that can impede the securing of convictions in matters like these, with the main impediment being evidence.
She explained that evidence can come in several different forms such as exhibits, documentary and real evidence, as well as substantial evidence and witness statements.
“We have seen cases where persons would’ve seen something and hear something but they are hesitant to give a witness statement to cause conviction. So we encourage persons also to report matters at the earliest possible time because delaying a report may cause the evidence to go down the drain, which will hamper the investigation and may cause a delay in conviction,” the constable said.
Members of the public are also encouraged to assist in combating sexual offences.
Constable Romancia Jordan, another officer within the Sexual Offences Unit, headquartered in Questelles, encouraged the public to report all cases of sexual assault.
“For example, you might be living in a community and you might be hearing rumours that a child is being sexually abused by a father or by his/her father or a family member. Please do not ignore it,” she said.
Jordan said calls can be made to the Police or Child Development Division, which can be reached at 532-9300.
The Sexual Offences Unit can also be contacted directly at 453-4599 or 456-1750 “When you’re calling, you do not have to give your name or provide your location or your number. We will appreciate any report that is reported,” the officer said.