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Lessons for all of us from machete-beating incident

Monday, February 12, 2018

From this distance, it seems reasonable to suggest that the St Thomas Parish Court acted in the best interest of everyone in the way it dealt with Ms Doreen Dyer, who was charged last year with cruelty to a child.

Readers will recall the dramatic video circulated on social media of an enraged Ms Dyer, dressed only in her underwear, beating her 12-year-old daughter with the flat side of a machete.

The incident sent shock waves through the society, with some calling for the sternest possible measures.

But it soon became clear that there were extenuating circumstances — among them being that the mother was stressed to virtual breaking point. Intriguingly, Ms Dyer's neighbours leapt to her defence early on, arguing that she was actually a good mother who had been overwhelmed by hard times.

As it has turned out, the court gave Ms Dyer a second chance. That's what the sentence of three years' probation with parental counselling and anger management classes amount to, in our view.

The expectation must be that Ms Dyer will become a better mother as a result of the trauma of the last several months, and that many others who are given to routinely beating their children — often brutally and for very minor offences — will also have learnt.

It's an established fact which, perhaps, has not been aired sufficiently, that behaviour such as was exhibited by Ms Dyer was by no means an isolated occurence. The essential difference here was that the incident was caught on video and circulated.

All that apart, the incident highlighted socio-economic maladies which plague the Jamaican society.

Ms Dyer gave compelling testimony: “I want the fathers dem to take care of their kids, because probably if my babyfather was taking care of me and the kids, mi wouldn't have to have that anger…” she said.

And further: “Mi go a my bed hungry. When I get a little money mi have to give dem (children) to keep it to go to school. Some of the time all two weeks, three weeks dem nuh guh to school... if their father was there that wouldn't happen.”

Parental neglect, mostly as a result of delinquent fathers, and the long-standing issue of children suffering — including being kept out of school — because there is no money has to be dealt with. Crucially, as the society dreams of sustainable economic growth and an environment with crime at manageable levels, there must be a proactive, dedicated push for social welfare that will make a substantial difference in the lives of children in particular.

Otherwise, 10, 15, 20 years from now Jamaica will find itself with problems much as they are today, very probably worse.