BEYOND MARCO’S ALERT: Local activist group pushes for sexual offences court after shocking death of child

BEYOND MARCO’S ALERT: Local activist group pushes for sexual offences court after shocking death of child

Police have neither confirmed nor denied speculation of the nature of Bella’s assault

“We need better ways to prevent, detect and punish crimes against children”

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — While still urging full implementation of the Marco’s Alert system intended to assist children in danger, Rise Bahamas yesterday called for the government to go further by establishing a separate sexual offenses court.

This follows the death of four-year-old Bella Walker, which has been both strongly condemned and deeply mourned around the country, with countless leaders, organizations and others publicly expressing outrage over the incident.

Four-year-old Bella (right), who died on Friday, November 5, 2021, after allegedly being assaulted. Photo courtesy of Kevrick Sands.

Bella died in hospital last Friday after an alleged assault that left a man and a woman in police custody.

Despite a wave of public speculation of sexual assault, police have not confirmed the nature of Bella’s injuries; nor have they officially confirmed the identities of the two who were arrested or their relation to the little girl.

Nonetheless, the subject of child abuse and sexual abuse has become a hot-button topic as the country reels from Bella’s tragic demise.

Rise Bahamas, in its statement yesterday, said: “It is with a heavy heart that Rise Bahamas has learned of the brutal assault and resulting death of a four-year-old girl.

“Atrocities like this shed light on the inadequate preventative measures and laws we have in respect to child protection in The Bahamas.

“Rise Bahamas has been primarily advocating for the full implementation of Marco’s Law, which mandates a missing child alert and registry of convicted sex offenders.”

The Mandatory Action Rescuing Children Operation (Marco’s) Alert system was decided on after the brutal murder of 11-year-old Marco Archer in 2011. It is designed to act similarly to the Amber Alert system in the United States.

But Rise Bahamas noted that “statistics show that sex offenders are often known to their child victims”.

Marco Archer.

“We need better ways to prevent, detect and punish crimes against children,” the group asserted.

“For many years, the Bahamas Crisis Centre has been calling for the establishment of a separate sexual offenses court, to no avail. This court needs to be established immediately to deal with these issues expeditiously.

“There are a number of social development agencies and civil society groups helping to fill the gaps within our communities. These groups need to be an integral part of informing new legislation and initiatives.”

The former administration had allegedly been working to implement a Sex Offender Registry, with former Minister of National Security Marvin Dames telling the media in May that there could have been movement on it before the end of this year.

However, there has been no word on its progress up to the Minnis administration’s crushing defeat at the polls in September.

In the meantime, Rise Bahamas yesterday lamented that “bystander intervention seems like a foreign concept in a society where we tend to turn a blind eye”.

It also claimed that its statement was supported by the Bahamas Crisis Centre, Families of All Murder Victims (FOAM), the Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG), Silent No More, Rights Bahamas and Smart & Strong Sisterhood (SASS).

About Rayne Morgan

Rayne Morgan is a copy editor at Eyewitness News. As a former reporter, she has amassed several years’ experience in the mass media field, writing for both local and international publications, and continues to lend her expertise in grammar and editing to the industry.