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EDITORIAL: Closure vital in three child death cases

Barbados Nation

EDITORIAL: Closure vital in three child death cases

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IN ANY SYSTEM, confidence in its operation is key to its continued success. When it comes to child abuse and the functioning of agencies charged with the protection of children, 2015 was nothing short of a landmark year.

Unfortunately, in the minds of many Barbadians it was a landmark that highlighted the negative rather than the positive and it is against this background we can only categorise as most unfortunate the fact that state agencies operating in this area, particularly the Child Care Board and the Royal Barbados Police Force, have not been able to finish the year with redemptive action.

And we arrive at this conclusion because 2015 will come to an end tomorrow night without closure in the cases relating to the deaths of Shemar Weekes, 12, who was found hanging from the roof of a shed in the backyard of his Checker Hall, St Lucy home on May 14; Jahan King, six, of Jackson, St Michael, who died after being taken to hospital by ambulance on June 29 with signs of bruising; and Kashia Douglas, four months old, of Dash Valley, St George, who was found dead by her mother on June 22.

While it would be hard to consider these deaths as anything but suspicious, and while an accusing finger has been pointed at specific individuals in each instance, we would not be so irresponsible as to suggest that person “A” or “B” is culpable in any instance.

Quite frankly, we are not qualified to say if anyone is culpable or not, but we do believe there are state agencies charged with investigating to arrive at such a conclusion if the evidence points in that direction. It is most unfortunate therefore that after all these months no one has been charged or, conversely, there has been no statement to suggest the deaths were the result of some accident, misadventure or that investigators just can’t come to a conclusion.

But to leave the country without any word, directly or indirectly, can only result in further eroding of confidence on top of what occurred when the actual deaths took place. We do not believe any reasonable person would disagree when we state that such agencies depend heavily on members of the public reporting their observations and suspicions to apprehend perpetrators, which then acts as a deterrent to others who might be tempted to engage in similar behaviour.

If the general population begins to believe that those responsible are less than enthusiastic in responding then they will become less keen on assisting – and that is the last thing the country needs at this time.

We therefore implore those responsible, whether they reside within the Child Care Board, the Royal Barbados Police Force, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Coroner’s Office or elsewhere, to bring the country up to date on what is taking place with these three investigations.

There may be fair and reasonable justification for the long period of apparent inactivity, or perhaps there is hectic activity taking place away from the public glare, but as far as the country is concerned right now it appears that three innocent children have lost their lives in most suspicious circumstances and the system seems unresponsive.

There is a good reason why those associated with the delivery of justice all over the free world hold so dearly to the old maxim “Justice delayed is justice denied”. While these cases drag on justice is being denied to those who have lost loved ones, those at whom fingers are being pointed, and the public who believe that collectively they hold some responsibility for the welfare of every innocent child.

As 2016 dawns, these three cases must be brought  to a conclusion.