Governor’s Office responds to child abuse editorial

I write in response to Monday’s editorial, “When children are forced to wait for justice.”

The Governor’s Office, like so many others in Cayman, were appalled to hear of the delay in investigating the case of the young child who has alleged she was abused by relatives, and we await the report of the court which will determine which areas of government will need to be held accountable for these failings. Any delays in investigating child abuse cases are unacceptable.

However, I must disagree with the suggestion in Monday’s Cayman Compass that in response to this case, “[the] government has rushed in – not with a plan – but with an announcement: ‘A Child Safeguarding Board has been established in the Cayman Islands.’”

The Child Safeguarding Board was not established in response to this, or any other, specific case. As set out by the attorney general in his address to the opening of the Grand Court in January, we have been working with the Cayman Islands government to establish the board throughout the year. This is primarily in response to a commitment to prioritize child safeguarding, made by all Overseas Territories Governments at the Joint Ministerial Council in London last year.

The first meeting of the board was held on May 23 and will be held at quarterly intervals throughout the year. The purpose and responsibilities of the board are clear, and members will determine how it will meet these responsibilities to its best effect. We are confident that the board will prove to be an effective mechanism to bring agencies together at a policy level, thus helping to ensure that vulnerable children do not slip through the cracks.

Regarding the editorial’s assertion that “the only committee that truly matters, in the context of criminal justice, is extremely limited in composition. It comprises the accuser, the accused, the police, attorneys and the courts,” here again I disagree. All agencies must take responsibility for child protection, including criminal cases. Multi-agency working is the only principle we should take in protecting children in the future. Open conversation and accountability must be a priority. Blaming government initiatives which are addressing the problem is not helpful.

Joanne Vaughan, Policy Officer, Governor’s Office