By Elesha George
Residents across Antigua and Barbuda have made their outrage public following the sentencing of a man who repeatedly raped his 11-year-old daughter.
Leon Rodney, President of the Antigua and Barbuda Cricket Association, was among those to express his disbelief, saying “to know that parents doing those sorts of stuff and they telling me that because somebody plead guilty, they got a lighter sentence and it is 18 years”.
On Tuesday, Justice Stanley John sentenced the perpetrator to 18 years in prison for each of the three counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, but the sentences will run concurrently – meaning he will serve only 18 years in prison.
The convict, who is in his early 40s, pleaded guilty to having unlawful sexual intercourse with his daughter on at least three occasions between 2018 and 2019.
It was revealed in court that he threatened to beat the child so that she would remain silent.
His crimes only became known after a public argument ensued between the man and his ex-lover, who knew about the incestuous activities.
“In my view, the girlfriend is more guilty than the father. She wicked. The man wrong – he nasty, he crazy, he’s barbaric, he’s everything, but she worser-er,” said a regular caller to the Good Morning Jojo sports show.
Sexual assault is often a sore topic in Antigua and Barbuda but when the rape is incestuous it is certain to invoke stern reaction from the public, like from those who are calling for the man to be castrated or sentenced to life in prison.
Residents said the 18-year sentence is not harsh enough, given the magnitude of the offence and believe the perpetrator should have received more jail time.
Hundreds of Facebook users commented under the news article.
One person posted that “18 yrs is not even enough, 81 years is more like it, she’ll be a young woman by the time he’s out, and that can continue to hurt her more. This is something that will never be erased, but with him [being] in jail for a longer time might just ease some of her pain. Smdh.”
“This young lady is going to be affected for life, let’s just pray for her and let God deal with the father. Karma is real, he will surely get what he deserves,” another said.
Other residents feel that the court is finally taking these matters seriously given the length of the sentence.
The man’s identity cannot be revealed to protect the identity of the child.
According to court records, the child was sent to live with her father in 2018, after allegations of abuse by her mother. However, those allegations were later renounced.
Meanwhile, many members of the public are concerned about the mental health effects on the child and how it may affect her future.
“That father was [supposed] to protect his daughter; instead he sexually abuse her; that’s sickening, what’s wrong with these grown men,” one social media user questioned.
Another commented, “This is heart wrenching! An 11-year-old baby ran from physical and emotional abuse only to be confronted with sexual abuse by the one she thought would protect her. I pray that she is presently in counselling.”
The incident has again raised the issue of the implementation of a National Sexual Offenders’ Registry.
“These men need to be published … I can’t express how much this sickens me,” said one.
Another wrote, “Where’s the National Sexual Offender Registry – SO LONG???”
In 2019, Attorney General and Public Safety Minister Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin said in Parliament that once convicted, the names of all sexual offenders would be placed on a public registry.
However, that registry has not yet been established.