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10,000 cases of child abuse in 2013

BY KARYL WALKER Editor -- Crime/Court Desk walkerk@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, June 17, 2014    

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A total of 10,000 cases of child abuse were reported last year alone, according to government statistics revealed by a senior prosecutor yesterday.

"We had 10,000 reports of child abuse last year and 5,000 of them were neglected," Lisa Palmer-Hamilton, head of the Prosecution Sub-Committee of the Human Trafficking Task Force, told the Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange.

Children are among the most vulnerable group to human trafficking, and Palmer-Hamilton urged parents to be extra vigilant with monitoring their children.

"Monitoring is essential. Parents need to go beyond this thing of being a friend of your child. Keep close tabs on your child," she said.

The Internet is one avenue where human traffickers seek to lure children into their trap, and Palmer-Hamilton urged parents to monitor their children's ventures into cyberspace.

Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Justice Carol Palmer also urged parents to be responsible.

"We must have some values. We must control ourselves. We must not have more children than we can manage. Securing the human rights of a child is the parents' responsibility," Palmer said.

Greig Smith from the Office of the Children's Registry said the agency would be embarking on a public education campaign to sensitise communities about the horrors of human trafficking, which is likened to modern-day slavery.

"We are going to embark on a 'Pon Di Corner Reasoning'; public education. Once parents do understand that the legislation is there, and that they can be charged, we will see change," he said.

Between January and April this year, 656 children have been reported missing. Of that number, 415 have returned home, while 118 remain missing.

Two of the missing children have turned up dead, according to statistics provided by the Office of the Children's Registry.

The majority of human trafficking victims are women and female children, but according to Palmer-Hamilton there has been a rise in male human trafficking victims.

On Friday, Nadine Pitt, who pleaded guilty to cruelty to a child and living off the earnings of prostitution, will be sentenced in the Home Circuit Court.

The child was 12 years old when she ran away from home to live with Pitt. The following year, Pitt forced the girl into prostitution.

Pitt's scheme fell apart after the girl got pregnant at 14 and went to the police to report a dispute with the father of her child.

The police then found out that the girl had been reported missing by her father in 2005.

The human trafficking task force was formed in 2005 after the US State Department rated Jamaica at a tier three level and urged the authorities into action.

High Court judges, resident magistrates, prosecutors, clerks of the court, cops from the Organised Crime Investigative Division, and staff at the Victims Support Unit have been trained in handling various aspects of the crime.

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