DPP to prosecute parents for the negligence of children
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Following public outcry over his comments about an unlawful sexual intercourse case, Acting Director of Public Prosecutions Franklyn Williams yesterday sought to clarify that he was not “victim blaming” but instead trying to highlight the parental responsibility in these matters.
The issue was raised after a 40-year-old man was sentenced to four years in prison as part of a plea deal for pleading guilty to five counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with a 14-year-old schoolgirl.
In the comment that went viral, Williams responded to questions concerning the plea deal and said that today’s generation of “highly sexualized young people” engage in risky behaviour because of media association or lack of parental attention and oversight.
In an interview with Eyewitness News, Williams signalled that the public will soon see several matters brought to court where parents will be held responsible for the negligence of their children.
Since the widespread circulation of the comment, there have been calls for Williams’ resignation.
President of The Bahamas Urban Youth Development Center Prodesta Moore called the comments “reckless and extremely disheartening”.
She said they must be “retracted and a public apology should be forthcoming immediately”.
“Your job is to bring criminals to justice, not to blame and shame victims,” Moore said.
“If this is difficult for you to do, then please do the right thing and resign.”
On the Defense
But Williams contended in his interview with Eyewitness News that his comment was about the responsibility of the parent and “was in no way blaming” the young girl.
The Nassau Guardian reported that police found the teenager at Jason Pratt’s home on January 14, 2020, after receiving a tip from an anonymous caller.
Officers responded to the call at an apartment on Shamrock Close in the Carmichael Road area and reportedly met the young girl putting on her school uniform.
She reportedly told police that she met Pratt on Facebook and had sex with him five times between June 2019 and January 2020.
When the girl’s mother was contacted, she was taken to the hospital for a check up and it was found that she was pregnant.
Her mother reportedly told police that she thought the girl was in school.
Williams pointed to the facts of the case and questioned, “Where is the parent? How is it you do not know where your child is?”
He said there was no attention being paid to the child.
The Acting DPP advised that there are several upcoming cases where “parents are going to be charged for not properly being in control of their children”.
“We have several of these matters where the child victim in question even brought to the attention of a parent that they were being abused or that they are engaging in sexual activities and the parents did nothing,” said Williams, who insisted that this was the focus of his comments.
Asked about his comments about the “highly sexualized” generation, Williams said: “Over the years we have had cases of young people between the ages of 13 and 16 who have been found to be engaging in sexual intercourse and that is also reflected in the Sexual Offences Act.”
But President of Rise Bahamas Terneille Burrows said she believes that matters like these have become too commonplace that children who can’t consent are being blamed.
She said the society that should be lobbying for their protections is now tearing them down and a multifaceted approach must be taken.
Pointing to the role of the parents, she said they must be vigilant in the current digital age and suggested that survivors, parents, and perpetrators should receive mandatory counseling to address the issue.
Burrows also noted that in the recent matter it was bystander intervention that alerted police, something she said is needed to push the issue forward.
She added that there should also be a strengthening of laws that affect minors because of a trend in recent times of low sentencing of perpetrators of sexual offenses against minors.
The DPP yesterday also sought to explain the plea bargaining process, where the suspect admits guilt and is given a reduced sentence based on the range of sentences that can be given for the offense.
He noted that “this is not a case of rape” and further laid out how “unlawful sexual intercourse” acknowledges that a person who cannot legally give consent can engage in sexual intercourse but there may be other factors present.
“A person can consent to engage in sexual intercourse, even though legally, they cannot do so,” he said.
“The law recognizes that people engage in sexual intercourse, even though they legally cannot. The responsibility for that is not on the person who is under 16, the responsibility is on the person who is over 16.”
He doubled down for a third time that his comments spoke generally and he “did not blame the victim”.
Asked whether he believes more stringent measures are needed in the court system, Williams explained that there have been several instances where the government has attempted to implement mandatory minimums that have been regularly struck down by the courts.
He said this is because courts have historically taken the view that sentencing is within the purview and discretion of the court.
It is sad that we as a society have limit the responsibility of Adults to Nil, while blaming our children for acting like responsible adults.
(Roll reversal)At the end of the day; we as a society should not sanction any 40 year old Adult having any kind of sexual activities with a 14 year old. PERIOD!!!
Why a plea deal? Why not fully prosecute? It seems like the evidence was there. Thus talk about prisecyting parents will go up to the point when the child is the son or daughter of a person in the political or influential class
This man talks like a pedophile. You blame the pedophile not the parents of the child. Disgraceful.