Child victim violated

Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams -
Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams -

THE CONSEQUENCES of an archaic, overburdened and delay-plagued justice system are writ large by the constitutional case brought on behalf of a child rape victim who was forced to sue the State because of the excessively slow pace of criminal proceedings against her alleged assailant.

Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams, hearing the constitutional matter, this week ordered the State to pay $60,000 as compensation; and to ensure the claimant receives psychological counselling. But no amount of money will ever truly erase the sense of violation in a case that has dragged on far too long.

So slow has the pace of justice been that the victim, who was age 16 at the time of the facts in question, is now an adult. The alleged rapist first appeared in court six years ago. He was only committed to stand trial last year.

“What the record of the proceeding showed was that the criminal case lumbered through the court without regard to claimant being a child,” said the judge. “The inexcusable delays prolonging the criminal proceedings has caused the claimant to experience trauma from being chastised and humiliated by the defence attorney and from having to repeatedly face her alleged rapist.”

If it is immoral that thousands of people, presumed innocent, must languish in remand for years pending trials, it is obscene that a child complainant can be forced to relive the trauma of her ordeal over almost a decade.

While it is important to observe that no criminal conviction has yet been recorded in this matter, that is actually the heart of the complaint here.

There is a reason why a separate court system was devised to handle matters involving minors, so that such cases could be dealt with sensitively, expeditiously and with the requisite consideration for the welfare of the child.

Unfortunately, the Children’s Court was only operationalised in 2018. Prosecutors may have been reluctant to transfer the matter there due to the court’s remit of dealing with cases of children accused of breaking the law or children in need of supervision, care or protection.

Whichever way this mandate is interpreted, officials may not have envisioned the case dragging on for as long as it has.

Presiding officers may have also been placed between a rock and a hard place: either throw out the case given the delays and let the alleged perpetrator return to life cleared or allow it to drag on given the possibility of some judicial determination or justice down the road.

Plainly, there needs to be a reconsideration of the legal remit of divisions charged with tackling juvenile matters. At the very least, all stakeholders should heed, as a matter of public policy, in case management and elsewhere, the special needs of children.


"Child victim violated"

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