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Trying to cope with this most awful horror
Posted: Monday, April 3, 2006

DEAR EDITOR: While the country is reeling from a crime rate that is spiraling out of control, we get the news of the brutal murder of a little boy who responded to the childish urge to play with friends. I keep asking myself, what words of comfort can one offer to a mother in a situation like that? Which parent, anywhere on the planet, on hearing this story, will not share her grief and pain? How does a mother cling to the thin edge of sanity in the face of this senseless act of brutality?

There are no words of comfort that will soothe, but I hope that her friends will sit with her through the long dark nights that are to come; in that process of grieving that women know so well, hugging her, patting her back, weeping with her.

At times like these, it is understandable that people think of vengeance, of getting even, of tit- for -tat. In time, that bitter brew of emotions would also calm down. God is merciful.

This is why politicians must not jump into the fire and stoke the anger simmering under the surface of the society. This is why I think that Mr. Dookeran is wrong to call for the exposure of "sex offenders" at this time. Was this a sex crime, or was it some juvenile animal instinct to torture someone more helpless than they? Abu Ghraib was not sex crimes, just torture, sometimes involving sex.

When two boys in Britain lured a three year old away from his mother in a department store, and tortured and killed him, leaving his body along the train tracks, the law pursued them to the fullest. Up to today, their names have not been released. They were eleven and twelve at the time of the offence. Only blurred glimpses of them, from the surveillance video, were ever shown.

Now Britain has a long tradition of law, one that we inherited, which has served the country well. We should avoid going overboard, and demanding to know who these horrid young men are. This is exactly why trials in open court should be avoided in their cases. It could only incite further anger, and perhaps some amateur attempt at retributive justice, from which the society cannot benefit.

The question will arise about what to do with them. Certainly they cannot be sent to an adult prison, and certainly they should not be sent to the young offenders' house in Diego Martin, St. Michael's. Psychiatric evaluations are certainly called for, but what if they are found to be criminally insane? Do we have facilities in TnT for dealing with that on a juvenile level?

A jury of their peers would be impossible. Their peers should be studying for exams, not in court trying to decide the fate of people in their age group who commit such brutal acts.

There are some questions that the society as a whole should ask. Where did these boys begin to go wrong, and when? Did their teachers ever notice aberrant behaviour that was not addressed? How did their parents cope with discipline? Were there ever fathers in the homes? Sean also lived with his mother alone, a factor that should not be discounted in others luring him away, while his mother took a nap.

I think that the Caricom countries should look carefully into the possibility of housing each other's young offenders of serious crimes. Young men like this, if imprisoned in Jamaica, may have a better chance of rehabilitating themselves, than if they were imprisoned in Trinidad. They would also, quite possibly, be safer too.

Mr. Dookeran should turn his analytical skills towards answering the questions of how do we contain such young monsters, so that they will not hurt other children, and will get the help they need to cope with the hurt that led to this brutal act.

Not since the police in New York did something similar to the Haitian Immigrant, Abner Louima, in a bathroom of a New York police station, have I heard of such a horror, but these young boys were barely toddlers at the time. Some effort on the part of psychiatrists must be expended to investigate how our beautiful country could produce such aberrant behaviour in children so young.

Exposing sex offenders sound like a good political ploy, Mr. Dookeran. It does nothing to address the psychopathic wanna-bes who may imitate this crime, because of the horrific attention it garnered. Some of those scenarios, of children doing this to others as copy cats, are too horrible to imagine. Less anyone thinks I am exaggerating, I would remind readers that after the dragging death of James Byrd in Jasper, Texas about seven years ago, there were a number of other draggings reported. Some minds were fascinated with the idea of dragging a live human behind a vehicle, until his head broke off. We live in a sick world, and Trinidad and Tobago has to prepare for the possibility of copy cats of this singularly horrible, sick event.

Linda Edwards

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