The death of 18-year-old Kernelle Benjamin of Portsmouth has gripped the attention of the nation and Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has condemned what he described as an “obvious act of violence” committed against her.
He made that statement while addressing a press briefing held recently.
On May 30, a six-day search for Benjamin ended with the discovery of her body buried in a shallow grave at the back of a home near the Portsmouth Hospital.
“Though the facts of the case are not clear I condemn in the strongest possible terms this obvious act of violence committed against Kernelle Benjamin,” he said.
On behalf of the Government of Dominica, he offered deepest condolences to the parents of Kernelle Benjamin and others affected by this brutal act.
“We commit our efforts to the protection of Dominican children,” the Prime Minister stated.
According to him, based on information shared in the public there appears to be a history of child sexual abuse associated with this particular case.
“We all agree that such heinous acts against our children should not be tolerated,” Mr. Skerrit remarked.
He continued, “As I have previously announced in conjunction with the passage of five family Bills in Parliament, the cabinet recently approved the restructuring of the social services department and welfare division to address matters relating to the care of children, women, the elderly and other vulnerable groups in society.”
Furthermore, Mr. Skerrit noted that as part of the restructuring additional trained staff will be assigned to the welfare division to improve government’s response to matters of child abuse and to ensure appropriate and timely actions to safeguard children from all forms of abuse and neglect.
“A subunit of the Commonwealth of Dominica Police Force will be created with specially trained officers to respond to and investigate matters and other family protection issues,” he noted.
He reminded all that the protection of children is everyone’s responsibility.
“The safety and well-being of our children should be shared by parents and families, the schools, the community, government, and non-governmental organizations, including our churches,” he indicated.
He added, “Let us together focus on building a strong, responsive child protection system and strengthening prevention and early intervention services for our most vulnerable.”
During a previous interview, Benjamin’s mother, Melissa George, informed Dominica News Online (DNO) that her daughter was last seen in the Chance area on Wednesday, May 24, 2023.
Two men from Chance, Portsmouth are now remanded into custody at the Dominica State Prison after a charge of murder was brought against them by the police.
Cleton George and Remington François appeared before Chief Magistrate Candia Carrette-George on June 2, 2023, where the charge of murder was read to them. It is alleged that between May 23 and 26, 2023, George and François murdered 18-year-old Kernelle Benjamin at Chance, Portsmouth.
The accused men were not required to enter a plea since murder is an indictable offense, which is expected to be tried at the High Court before a judge and jury.