Child abuse in public

THE EDITOR: I was appalled to view a video of a crime scene on what seems to be the Brian Lara Promenade. The video showed two children in uniform (a boy and a girl) being beaten with a belt by a woman, who is not their parent, as she clearly stated, "I am coming down by your mother later."

No matter how well-intentioned this woman might have been, in her eyes, and in those of many ill-advised members of the public, this woman was committing the offence of cruelty against those children and should be arrested and brought before the court to answer to that charge. Only one adult male protested in defence of those children.

The Children Act allows a parent or guardian to administer corporal punishment to their children, but forbids everyone else from doing so. The children were not only physically abused, but those acts were carried out in full view of their peers and members of the public, so they were also humiliated and suffered psychological abuse.

Both children were obedient and never once tried to retaliate, physically or verbally, and yet that woman continued her public beating of those children, even while they were complying with her demands to go home. She also subjected them to verbal abuse, as she cursed them, saying, "Find you’re a-- home!" What an example for them to follow!

We do not often see the link between how children are treated by adults and how they behave. Recently-published reports of the abuse suffered by children in institutions, where they were placed for their protection, also proved that legal consequences for adult mistreatment of children are practically non-existent.

We will not expel that woman from society, as we can expel children from school, thus moving them along the pipeline from the schoolhouse to the jailhouse and imperilling their future prospects. The punitive approach is much easier, but less effective, than working restoratively in a conference with the child offender and her family and the victim and her family and the school community to repair the harm caused.

Were we to do so we would discover the root cause of the child's misbehaviour and seek to eradicate it by making an agreement embodying constructive methods for the child offender (and possibly even the seemingly innocent victim) to make amends to those who have directly suffered harm from their misbehaviour and to the school community, that has also been affected. The agreement can also embody any other necessary intervention in the best interests of the children.

I continue to be a merchant of hope, albeit a weary one, working in the vineyard of child justice in a society in which we justifiably celebrate our innovative Children Court, but often fail to subscribe to the principles of child rights and child justice.


former co-ordinator of the Caribbean

Coalition for the Abolition of All

Corporal Punishment of Children

and chairperson of the Child Rights

and Restorative Justice Organisation


"Child abuse in public"

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