St. John’s Antigua- “Serious” and “vexing” is how the Minister of National Security Dr Errol Cort described the alarming news that 60 sexual offences against minors have been documented in Antigua & Barbuda in the last six months.
He made the revelation at Friday’s inaugural meeting of the Trafficking in Persons Prevention Committee, where he unveiled the troubling statistics.
Dr Cort commissioned the report from the police force after seeing an “alarming” trend of such offences in daily police reports.
“It is an area that has created much disquiet for me and grave concern and I use this occasion to publically speak to the issue,” the minister said.
Dr Cort urged the members of the committee and guests — which included law enforcement organisations — to help squelch what he called the scourge of sexual assault against minors.
“We all must ensure that the full weight of the law is bought to bear to stamp out the heinous attack on minors in this country,” he said.
The 60 incidents of sexual assault were reported between January 2012 and July 12, 2012 and included 20 occurrences of unlawful sexual intercourse, one incident of incest, two occurrences of buggery, five assaults and 32 incidents of serious indecency.
Deputy Commissioner of Operations and Acting Police Commissioner Henry Christian —who attended the meeting but is not a member of the trafficking committee — was party to the statistics gathering process and said that the police are trying to reduce the number of offences on island.
“It is a very serious thing. We take it seriously and it is viewed seriously by all of us,” Christian said in an interview with OBSERVER Media. “Once these reports come in, we do everything possible to bring it to justice.”
Although the acting commissioner echoed the gravity of the situation, he disclosed that the amount of occurrences were not atypical, saying, “I can’t say it is abnormal. From time to time you will have a number of reports of a sexual nature coming in.”
Christian also believes that the various units within the police force are making headway into apprehending perpetrators of sexual assault.
“We have a sexual offences unit and they do those investigations and I think presently they are doing well,” Christian said. “They have a number of cases that they have completed and they have (more) before the court.”
He also urged child victims of sexual assault to come forward and assured that reports will be treated with “confidentiality.”
“What they should do is seek some adult person in the immediate area and report it to them so that they can know something is happening and they can call in the police force to give assistance needed at an early stage,” the acting police commissioner said.