Magistrate Refuses Application for Release of Deacon, Two Teenage Boys

By T K Whyte and Vaughn Davis
The Jamaica Observer
July 12, 2006

RESIDENT Magistrate Georgiana Fraser yesterday refused an application, in the Half-Way-Tree Criminal Court, from attorney Paul Beswick, seeking the release of the 46 year-old Dayton Avenue Church of God deacon and two teenage suspects, who are linked to the sexual assault of a 13 year-old schoolgirl.

The deacon, who was driving the van in which the teenage girl was sexually assaulted, and the two teenage boys accused of assaulting her, were taken into police custody last week for interrogation.

Meanwhile, the teenage boy who allegedly filmed the act has also been taken into police custody, but up to yesterday evening charges were not yet laid against the four.

Acting Deputy Superintendent McArthur Sutherland told the Observer late yesterday afternoon that the men were still being interviewed by the police, and despite initial delays due to the absence of their lawyers, they would be charged.

They are all likely to face charges of:

. indecent assault;

. aiding and abetting in the indecent assault;

. conspiracy after the fact; and

. failure to report the ill-treatment of a child, under the Child Care and Protection Act 2004.

The deacon may also face additional criminal charges after a copy of the videotape of the alleged assault of the young female was found during a raid at his house last Friday.

The police said several other video cassettes were found during the raid and were under review.

Beswick argued in his application that the magistrate order that the suspects be brought before the court or be released from police custody. But the resident magistrate threw out the application after requesting an update on the investigations.

A police inspector told the court that the matter was set for hearing in court today. It was on that basis that RM Fraser refused the application.

According to the police, earlier this year the deacon drove a van to the girl's school and offered her a ride home. After the deacon left the school compound with the girl and the young men in the vehicle, the young men allegedly held on to her and began to indecently assault her. One of the young men video-recorded the incident.

A copy of the tape was subsequently forwarded to members of the media, who then went public with the information.

Meanwhile, the attorney-general and justice minister, A J Nicholson, who said he was horrified at the report of the alleged sexual assault on the teenage girl, yesterday asked persons to cooperate with the police in the investigations.

Nicholson, in a statement, also said the alleged sexual assault of the child was by no means a private matter as it was a serious offence punishable under the law.

Church officials were said to be aware of the allegations but refrained from reporting the crime to the police, arguing that it was an internal matter.

"These are not internal matters, as some persons have been quoted as saying, but serious offences punishable under the law," said Nicholson.

He added: "It should be kept in mind that it may amount to obstruction of justice to try to persuade persons not to cooperate with the police in these investigations. The law must be allowed to take its course, particularly in this matter, where the interest of the child victim is paramount."

In the meantime, the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), in a statement yesterday, said the apology by the church was unfortunate and regrettable.

"The abuse of our children will stop when we take quick and decisive action to institute criminal sanctions against the perpetrators as well as those persons, who by their silence and inaction, facilitate and encourage such criminal conduct," said Senator Dorothy Lightbourne, JLP spokesperson on legal affairs, gender and children's affairs.


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