JIS News

The Child Development Agency (CDA) will be pushing for a revision of the age of sexual consent to bring it on par with the Child Care and Protection Act, which defines a child as anyone up to the age of 18 years.
“I will be going back to the legislators to try and get them to revisit the age of consent,” Chief Executive Officer of the agency, Alison Anderson promised police officers attending a training seminar on the new Act this morning (Nov. 22) at the Jamaica Conference Centre downtown Kingston.
While the new law defines a child as anyone up to the age of 18 years, the age of sexual consent is still 16 years. The officers felt that the age of sexual consent should also be changed as it contradicted the new law and could create legal problems.
Miss Anderson agreed and said that one of the problems was that the age of consent was set by the Ministry of National Security, while the Ministry of Health determined the age of a child.
She however welcomed the new Act, noting that previously, there was no law that defined who a child was and a child over 16 years old could not appear before a Children’s Court. The law now allows a child over the age of 16 to be carried to a children’s court for protection. The Child Care and Protection Act became law earlier this year with the CDA established as an executive agency under the Ministry of Health in June.
The changes have come about as part of government’s efforts to address and better protect the nation’s children as well as to remove the negative connotations that had been attached to childcare institutions. These include changing the name of Juvenile Courts to Children’s Courts.
The new legislation also seeks to promote the best interests, safety and wellbeing of children as well as recognise the special needs of children in conflict with the law.
Three stages have been implemented to address child protection. These include primary protection, where the focus is on teaching children life skills and counselling them before anything happens to them; secondary protection deals with addressing the risks with which children are faced and tertiary protection involves dealing with the child after an incident has occurred. This is the level at which the police intervenes.
Addressing the issue of children “escaping” from places of safety, Miss Anderson said, “places of safety are not detention centres. We provide shelter and refuge; these children have done nothing wrong and can leave.”
During the meeting, the officers participated in question and answer sessions as well as group discussions from which reports were made.
Under the Child care and Protection Act, police officers will be required to receive complaints, investigate allegations and other offences committed against or by children, make arrests if necessary, make referrals to support services and participate in court cases.