Children’s Rights Advocate, Francis Joseph, is of the opinion that a man who was sentenced to eight years for sexually molesting three children should have been given a minimum of at least 20 years behind bars.
Last week 36-year-old Clife Elijah Charles pleaded guilty to having sexual relations with three minors, six, seven and eight years and was sentenced by High Court Judge Errol Thomas.
However, many Dominicans believe the sentenced was too lenient and Joseph said Dominicans have a right to be upset and ask questions.
“Outside of the law, which everyone respects, people have the right to demonstrate their frustration and disgust at the law,” he remarked. “It’s nothing personal on the judge and the team who works with him … the country should have picked it up that there is a gap in the law that we need to address.”
He believes that someone who sexually abuse a child “once, twice and three times, the sentence has to be sought of a minimum of either 10 years or 15 years.”
However, he noted, that there are no minimum clause in the law.
“So the judge will exercise his duty in abiding with the law, but the country is asking him to use his discretion,” Joseph said.
Joseph stated that the judge, in Charles’ case, could have raised the bar and give a minimum of 20 years and because of good behaviour and for pleading guilty, shave one or two years from that sentence.
“I think the public would have been happy with at least 15 years in the sense that you have been good, but on the other hand you have been bad and a naughty man to young people and it shouldn’t happen,” he said.
He went on to say that the defendant needs to learn a lesson and the public needs to know that people will not get a light sentence by “going to court and saying that I am sorry and pleading guilty.”
Joseph said the principle agency responsible for monitoring and addressing the issue of child abuse is the Ministry of Social Services.
“The social services department is key to ensure that there are sufficient officers out there who can do early detection and early intervention to stop it,” he stated. “If not, we are going to continue hearing of these cases going on and persons are getting off.”
He stated further that Child abuse has increased in homes because of the level of poverty and deprivation in Dominica.
“And that is where our government must take responsibility to understand the importance of social programmes that needs to be implemented …it has to be planned,” he said.
Joseph said that Convention on the Rights of the Child said that children are entitled to grow up in a safe environment without being affected mentally, physically, spiritually or emotionally.