In what many have described as a twist of fate, Treverson Roberts, who is originally from La Poterie, St. Andrew but resides in Brooklyn, New York, and was made to face no jail time after admitting to sexually assaulting a 5-year-old boy temporarily left in his care while visiting the island in 2019, is currently facing a maximum penalty of 30 years imprisonment for sexual assault in the United States.
Two years after committing the shameful act, karma appears to have caught up with the 27-year-old dual Grenadian and U.S citizen, who pleaded guilty to “engaging in illicit sexual conduct with a minor in a foreign place” in the federal court in Brooklyn on Monday.
The matter was brought against Roberts in the U.S. as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse, launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice.
In October 2019, Roberts, who had travelled to Grenada to be ordained as a minister within a congregation of the Church of God Seventh Day, was arrested and brought before long standing female Magistrate Nevlyn John at the Grenville Magistrate’s Court on a summary charge of indecent assault of a minor.
The then 24-year-old admitted to forcing the 5-year-old boy to perform oral sex on him and had faced a maximum penalty of five (5) years imprisonment for the offense.
However, during the sentencing hearing on October 16, 2019, Roberts was ordered to pay a fine of $1,500.00 cash to the court, and $600.00 to the family to cover the cost of six (6) sessions of counseling, fees on the following day October 17, or be subjected to one (1) month in jail.
The court’s failure to put him behind bars had sparked public outrage and triggered fresh calls for stiffer penalties, and a review of related legislation.
The Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) responded to the public’s outcry and had advised the Commissioner of Police to challenge whether the sentence was adequate, given the circumstances of the offense.
However, sources told THE NEW TODAY on Tuesday that the notice of appeal, which was filed to the court to challenge the sentence, is still pending.
This matter has highlighted the issue of sexual offenses in Grenada against children, and the need to ensure that existing laws indeed achieve the objective of deterring such offenders and protecting the vulnerable in society.
Businesswoman Rolanda Mc Queen, who has since been appointed to serve as an Opposition Senator in Parliament, was among those who spoke out against the court’s ruling in 2019, stating that it was tantamount to a slap on the wrist.
She was also among those who supported a petition, which generated over 400 signatures, demanding the strengthening of local laws against sexual predators, implementing a sex offender registry according to international standards.
During the debate on the 2022 budget, which convened in the Upper House of Parliament on Monday, Sen. Mc Queen once again voiced concern on these issues, pointing out that “physical and sexual abuse has emerged as the main issue facing the children of Grenada.”
Noting that “60% of the prison population in Grenada are in prison for sexual offenses,” the Opposition Senator called for these plaguing issues to be given priority as “these problems are deeply rooted in our society”.
“It’s a cultural problem that has been passed on from generation to generation without a stop,” added Sen. Mc Queen, who expressed dissatisfaction that “more than one-third of children and women in Grenada has suffered from sexual abuse due to the lack of laws.”
She expressed outrage that the government has “neglected” to “set up a system for the rehabilitation of offenders, implement the registry for offenders, take measures and assist victims of these offenses, set up a family court for the hearing of these offenses, expedite the hearing of these matters, fund education programme and improve the reporting system.”
“We cannot continue to rely on external sources and grants from outside organisations, we need funds from our revenues to tackle these matters and until that day we are going to continue in that never-ending vicious cycle,” said Sen. Mc Queen.
Over the years, sexual crimes against minors have been identified as a social scourge with the Police and the Child Protection Authority recording more and more cases.
A review of the High Court Criminal assizes list shows that sexual offense continues to top the list.
During a news conference to highlight the status of crime for the first quarter of 2021, the police said that from its records, young children under the age of eight (8) are heavily targeted by men above the age of 50.
In July, Attorney General Dia Forrester told reporters that consultation was ongoing for the creation of a sex offenders’ registry bill with a view to taking it to Parliament by the end of the year.
Sexual offenses are one of the convicted records that will not be expunged under the Rehabilitation Offenders Bill, which went into effect a few years ago.