YOU sometimes have to wonder what officials are thinking when they open their mouths and insert their foot. Or even whether they are thinking at all.
The acting director of public prosecutions is Franklyn Williams. A case appeared in court in which a 40-year-old man got a 14-year-old girl pregnant. He was sentenced to four years in jail.
The sentence came as part of a plea deal, and when asked about why a plea deal was offered to a man 26 years older than his victim who was below the age of consent for sexual activity, Mr Williams showed a complete lack of tact, to say the least.
He said: “We have a generation of highly sexualized young people, whether through media or association, and who because of parental inattention, lack of parental oversight and in some cases, tacit encouragement and acquiescence, engage in risky behaviours. The facts of this case dictated the course taken.”
You will notice he directs his attention there, with reference to the case, to young people. To a lack of parenting. To “risky” behaviour.
What you do not see in his comments is anything with regard to the predatory behaviour of an older man. Of a need for such men to understand consent, and that a 14-year-old is not legally able to consent. The man clearly broke the law – and the most that the DPP has to say about it is directed towards the man’s victim.
“I said nothing about the victim,” he protested to The Tribune, however, “I said absolutely nothing about the young lady.”
Then who are the young people you are talking about when asked about this case, Mr Williams? The 40-year-old? Is it the 40-year-old’s parents you were concerned about being inattentive? Is it his risky behaviour? You don’t have to name the victim specifically for us to know what you were referring to, and you should not compound your original insensitive comments by treating us all like idiots.
This is not the first time an official has been caught saying something inappropriate.
In January last year, Police Commissioner Paul Rolle was the subject of criticism after he attributed some of the suicides in 2020 to “weak” men.
Just this week, Transport Minister Jobeth Coleby-Davis was in the spotlight after she posted a reaction to the Oscars incident in which actor Will Smith hit presenter Chris Rock. She said: “Men are natural protectors, when they TRULY love a woman, it’s harder for them to turn it off! Jada’s reaction shows hurt! Let this be a lesson!”
After being criticised for posting something that could be construed as encouraging violence at a time when Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis is holding conclaves to tackle rising murder levels, she deleted the post.
The difference with both Commissioner Rolle and Mrs Coleby-Davis is that both apologised after concerns were raised. Mr Williams is digging his heels in, saying: “I stated a fact and the fact is as I stated through the media and through association you have young people who are being sexualised.”
Sadly, the victim in this case will not be the last one of such a crime. Sexual offences are too commonplace. How will the next victim feel about coming forward to prosecute her attacker if the director is casting doubt on young people in this way? If he is seen to be blaming them in some fashion?
What confidence will there be if a child can be a victim of a 40-year-old man and the case goes to a plea deal with a lighter sentence?
There have already been calls for Mr Williams to resign. As Equality Bahamas director Alicia Williams says in today’s Tribune: “This is a state actor saying we’re not going to use the law to the full degree because we’re going to blame this victim for what happened to her. Not only that but we’re also going to blame her for her parents and anyone else around her for the thing that one person did and this is the perpetuation and it’s an example of rape culture.”
Mr Williams’ comments show him to be at the least disconnected from those who are victims of such crimes. His subsequent comments show an unwillingness to accept his words were wrong.
Whether he resigns or not, his comments have damaged faith in the process for victims of sexual crimes.