Publicity Stunt: PM questions motive of women’s group

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Prime Minister Gaston Browne says he remains at a loss as to what is expected from his administration after a women’s organisation launched a petition late last week demanding a full review of the case that led to a police prosecutor accused of kidnapping and having sex with a 13-year-old child being able to walk free earlier this month.

Women of Esteem (WOE), which is one of several organisations seeking a review of the case, said that the court decision should be regarded as null and void because by law, a child under 16 years of age is unable to give consent. The petition further claims, said child cannot instruct a judge.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne (File Photo)

The group said the petition, which is targeting 30,000 signatures, will be delivered to the prime minister, attorney general and governor general once those signatures are collected.

But speaking on a radio station here, Prime Minister Browne is questioning the objective of the group that has been advocating for women rights since 2011.

He said long before the group started its petition the government was already doing what it could from a legal standpoint.

“What does she {President of WOE Nikki Phoenix] want the government to do? Does she want us to go and dabble into the [affairs] of the judiciary, something they are speculating could happen when we transition to the CCJ (Caribbean Court of Justice)? What exactly is the objective?” Browne told radio listeners.

He said he does not have a problem with advocacy, however he is against people using a situation to ‘gain popularity or fame”.

The girl had told the court that she no longer wanted to continue with the case against the police officer after she had spoken with her mother, counsellor and guardian.

She told Justice Keith Thom that she has forgiven the accused, and had she been in his shoes, she would have wanted to be forgiven as well.

The child, who is now a ward of the state, having been removed from her parents’ care, said she understood the seriousness of the allegations before the court which include one count of kidnapping and two counts of unlawful sexual intercourse – the latter is an offence which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Crown Counsel Shannon told the court that the girl, who is now 15 years old, had also spoken to her about the incident and the Director of Public Prosecutions, Anthony Armstrong had asked for the Directorate of Gender Affairs to be involved and to offer counselling to the teen.

The police officer had been charged after the investigations had revealed that on July 26, 2016, during the Carnival celebrations that the child was working with a woman who sent her to a shop nearby.

While on the way, the officer allegedly approached the teen, whom he knew, and told her to join him in his vehicle and when she did not, he forced her inside and took her to his home. There, he allegedly engaged her in sex even though she was 13 and the age of consent is 16.

The following day, he allegedly reached out to her and she went to his home where he again, allegedly had sex with her contrary to the Sexual Offences Act which sets out the age of consent.

The non-government organisation, Women Against Rape (WAR), has also expressed disappointment at the decision.

“At age 13 there was a charge…how come now at this point in time there’s an acquittal when at age 13 the person was charged with an offence, granted that being charged with an offence does not mean that the person is guilty of an offence, so we need to look at all of those ramifications,” said WAR president Alexandrina Wong.Wong, speaking on a radio programme here, said her organisation intends to “find out what led to this acquittal”.

The Prime Minister told radio listeners that his administration is commitment to addressing any deficiency which may exist within the law to protect minors who are unwilling to testify in court.

Browne said a committee was established to examine changes that could be made to the law to correct what the public views to be a problem.

He said the committee, headed, by Social Transformation Minister Samantha Marshall, has already established its terms of reference and will be putting forward specific recommendations to the government on how to move forward with the process.

“We are trying to at least get some recommendations as to how we can strengthen the laws and the administrative framework to ensure that there is no re-occurrence of that type of situation, or if there is such a reoccurrence, we have some alternative to address the issue,” Browne said.

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26 COMMENTS

  1. That was exactly my point. What is it that they want the government to do. Interfere with the judiciary so that they can now say, you see political interference with the court is possible in Antigua.
    Give me a break lady. Go and fight for the right of Andrea Hughes who was killed and up until today the diver has not faced to court. Stand up for that if anything.

    • How is it that the same politicians could interfere with the judiciary when they overturned the one year prison term that was handed down for the American tourist that was found with a gun in her bag, and now that a young child was taken advantage of in this way, it’s all hands off by these guys???

    • Well they did already when the judge sentenced the lady in prison for one year did she serve a day who set her free jesus ,this is the problem in this country u pick and choose

      • Like a British police officer accused of rape being extradited to Antigua under the agreement that he is kept in a luxury apartment.

  2. It seems that to our PM every person that speaks up against anything is “looking to get famous”……bottom line here is a 13 year old can NOT consent to sex and engaging in sex with a minor is a CRIME whether the CHILD involved wants to press charges or not. She can forgive him, the LAW should NOT!!!

    • I hear you, but shouldn’t this issue be posed to the JUDICIAL arm and not the executive? What exactly can the Cabinet do to get the minor to testify?

      • Exactly. All this is politics. And it makes no sense whatsoever. The only thing a government can do is to go to parliament and pass laws. When Baldwin lost his case against Sir Gerald Watt he said to the judge their is more then one way to skin a cat and he went to parliament and pass a law that made Sir Gerald above the retirement age. So he still didn’t get his position back on ABEC

  3. Nikki if you really want to garner even more public attention, take up the cause in calling for JUSTICE FOR ANDREA HUGHES and her precious children. What a difference you can make in the lives of her children and family and the wider society. ANDREA HUGHES was a woman and mother. Her children will grow up in a cruel world without her maternal care.

  4. If the PM / executive gets involved isnt this the kind of thing we need to guard against o maintain the independence of the judiciary. I agree with the PM here.

  5. All the people talking now and defending politicians, if this happened to their daughter they’d be singing a different tune.

    • You really think that they care about that probably selling their daughters to the highest bidder and if it is men they are the ones using these children…….60 year old man 13 year old girl unbelievable and out right sick

    • But the thing is the parents are okay and helped the young lady with her choice to that point isn’t valid.. The government doesn’t run the court or Judicial system!!

  6. Wait them think Gaston would say something different they better think again when i was in second form a friend of mines was with the said person and fore sure so he dont give a fish tails

  7. What has baffled me is that I’m not aware of any of the media houses contacting the officer or his attorney to see if they’d give their side of the story.

    I hear what is being said about the officer, and I believe in justice, but at the same time, the issue was never tried before a jury, yet we’ve condemned the officer without hearing his story, or a statement.

    I also think the media is pushing a very biased story on this matter. We need to other side of this story.

    If we can’t get it, then I think we need to leave the office alone so may have been innocent of the accusation.

    As I said in not defending, but I thought about this, and suppose I was in such a situation, and I know I’m innocent. Then the matter is dismissed and I’m being ridiculed by society for something I did not do

    • Hey really are u people seriously saying this….what is the question i dont see any u think it happen once look this mother for this daughter men have to watch who them donate sperm to because every time i think of this mother i just wonder what could have caused that…

  8. Why are you people not laying the blame where it should be….at the Judicial System and the office of the DPP. Why must this whole thing be made political. Nicki looking fame, why don’t she take up the media personal who walked free cause the police screw up. Why she don’t she take up for Andrea Hughes. Furthermore she nah come from ya so she should keep she backside out of out politics.

    • Police really a pick up for police…it matter way she come from most of you guys are not from here also but want to rape little girls and go back to st Vincent she is more civil minded than most antiguans but time will tell because if u have girl children one day u will see

  9. FYI I’m a born and raised Antiguan and I’m not a police officer. Me say again Nicki Pheniox ah look fame from this whole thing and I’ll say this again SHE BACKSIDE NAH COME FROM YA SO SHE NEED TO STAY TH HELL OUT OF OUR POLTIC.

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