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JIS News

The draft report of the audit of the local child protection system will be ready in a month’s time, and this will help to shape the way abused children are treated by the legal system in Jamaica.
The audit was conducted by noted United Kingdom child psychologist, Dr. Tony Butler at the behest of Children’s Advocate, Mary Clarke, and Executive Director of the Family and Parenting Centre, Dr. Beverley Scott.
“There was overwhelming support for the audit by officials,” Dr. Scott told JIS News on June 25, more than a week after the completion of the June 6 to 16 audit.
“Dr. Butler will be presenting his draft report within a month, after which we will meet to discuss the findings and present our own report,” she said.
In the meantime, Director of Public Prosecutions, Paula Llewellyn, while speaking to a joint select committee of Parliament on June 19, welcomed the work being done by the group conducting the audit.
“Video technology has huge potential to reduce the trauma experienced by child victims of sexual abuse,” she said.
Miss Llewellyn spoke out in support of plans by the Government to allow witnesses to give their evidence from a remote location connected to the court by a live video link. She said that this would give much greater confidence to witnesses and reduce their fear of giving evidence in court.
Commenting on Miss Llewellyn’s statement to Parliament, Dr. Scott said: “I welcome the positive support given by the Director of Public Prosecutions for the introduction of video links to enable witnesses to give their evidence in criminal trials. These comments to Parliament come at an extremely opportune time, especially in light of the fact that a child protection consultant from the United Kingdom visited Jamaica between June 6 and 16, to undertake an audit of the child protection systems and procedures.”
The visit by Dr. Butler was the result of participation in a regional child protection conference held in Havana, Cuba in February this year, attended by Miss Clarke and Dr. Scott. While there, they saw demonstrations in the use of video technology to help lessen the trauma experienced by child victims of sexual abuse.
The participation of the Jamaican contingent was sponsored by the British High Commission.
In Havana, there is a Child Protection Centre where the child victim is interviewed by a police officer and this interview is recorded on DVD. The DVD is then used in the criminal trial, so that the child does not have to repeat all the details of his or her experience in front of strangers in a court room.
While in Jamaica conducting the audit, Dr. Butler met with several stakeholders, including Senator Dorothy Lightbourne, Attorney General and Minister of Justice and Miss Llewellyn, among others. His discussions with them not only included the introduction of the live video link, but also further amendments to the Evidence Act to enable a video recording of the interview with the child victim to be admissible in court.
In countries where this technology has been introduced, there have been substantial benefits to the child victim. Additionally, the judge and jury have a far more detailed account of the child’s experience than is often achieved in the court room.