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JIS News

United Kingdom forensic psychologist, Dr. Tony Butler is in Jamaica to conduct an audit of the country’s child protection system. The project is funded by the British High Commission at a cost of $1.7 million.
“While I do not want to pre-empt the findings, I hope that one thing that will come out of this audit will be the reduction of secondary victimization of abused children,” Child Psychologist, Dr. Beverley Scott told JIS News.
Dr. Scott, who attended the Child Protection Conference held in Havana, Cuba, in January, said secondary victimization often happens when children have to recount their sexual or other abuse in unfriendly situations, such as in police stations and even the court houses.
She also hopes that the audit will result in the creation of child protection centres such as exist in Cuba, Chile and other countries where Dr. Butler has done his audits. These centres are like homes away from home, where children can talk in less stressful environments than those which exist at police stations and courthouses.
Dr. Scott, who has worked as a teacher, probation officer and social worker, argued that even in cases where children are to be interviewed by the police, it should be done by specially trained persons, or that such interviews should take place in the presence of a child psychologist.
“I also wish to see the acceptance of video interviews in court, so that children do not necessarily have to go to court, where the trauma of abuse has to be played out in front of an audience,” she added. In cases where children have to appear in court, Dr. Scott said they should be made familiar with the surroundings before the court day, to reduce the trauma of having to give evidence in new and unfamiliar surroundings.
The audit is being co-ordinated by the Montego Bay based Family and Parenting Centre, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), which works with inner city families and communities in areas such as Child Therapy, Positive Parenting Workshops, Youth Violence Prevention Workshops, Youth Summer Camps and HIV/AIDS Positive Prevention Workshops. Other agencies collaborating on this project are the Office of the Children’s Advocate, the Child Development Agency (CDA) and the Community Safety Division of the Jamaica Constabulary Force.
The objective of the audit is to reduce the causes of secondary victimization of children reporting allegations of sexual abuse and to improve the quality of evidence obtained during the subsequent investigation. Dr. Butler has led similar child protection projects in Malaysia, Jordan, Chile, Cuba, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.
While in Jamaica, he is scheduled to meet with stakeholders in the Child Protection and Criminal Justice System, including child protection practitioners, the Commissioner of Police, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Chief Justice, the President of the Medical Association of Jamaica, the Chief Education Officer in the Ministry of Education, representatives from the Ministry of National Security, and representatives from the Ministry of Justice, among others.
Dr. Scott and Children’s Advocate, Mary Clarke attended the Regional Child Protection Conference in Cuba, jointly organised by the British Embassy in Havana, the Cuban Interior Ministry and the British Charity Child Protection Development Trust.
The objectives of the conference were to share practical experiences on how to treat cases of child sexual abuse, to debate, analyse and exchange experiences in order to overcome current obstacles in this field, to learn about advances made by Cuba in child protection, and to visit the Child Protection Centre in Havana, which is an example of best practice in the region.
A comprehensive report on the conference was presented in February to the relevant Government Ministries, the Child Development Agency (CDA), and the Jamaica Constabulary Force, among others. The recommendation in the report was that Dr. Butler, who is responsible for establishing the Child Protection Model, be invited to Jamaica to review the island’s system and make recommendations in keeping with the country’s needs.