A proper sentence for a sex offender
Supreme Court Justice Hartman Longley yesterday sent former Eight Mile Rock High School teacher Andre Birbal to jail for 35 years. The strong and appropriate sentence should serve as a message to those in the school system who prey on children under their care.
Birbal was found guilty of sexually molesting two former male students. The sickening details of the abuse were set out at his trial in Grand Bahama, which ended yesterday.
Longley should be commended for removing a predator from our community for a very long time.
All members of the criminal justice system have roles to play in protecting our community and helping to reduce the high rate of crime that currently exists. When judges sentence convicts for obscene crimes such as were committed by Birbal, they should issue sentences similar to what was issued yesterday by Longley.
Repeat offenders also need to face harsher sentences in The Bahamas to ensure they don’t commit the same crime over and over again.
Birbal will likely appeal the conviction and sentence against him. If both stand before the Court of Appeal, he will either die in prison or come out an old and broken man. Both results are just.
The culture in The Bahamas is changing when it comes to the sexual abuse of children. The government has taken the position that when complaints of sexual abuse are made in the school system, the Royal Bahamas Police Force is called. If there is sufficient evidence that a crime has been committed, the teacher or school employee is charged under their new policy.
Parents and students also seem more willing to publicly press for justice. In years gone by, the Department of Education often transferred teachers suspected of sex abuse around the islands. Many parents and guardians preferred to keep the matters quiet in order to prevent embarrassment.
This misguided policy and fear of public embarrassment allowed pedophiles to harm more children.
It must be remembered that child molesters reoffend if they are not stopped. It is the responsibility of reasonable members of the community to do everything possible to ensure that our children are protected.
Additionally, we must continue to train our children to tell an adult and keep telling them if someone acts inappropriately towards them.
Longley’s sentence is an example of the court taking a stand.