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Traumatic impact of violence on children

Appealing for the childre: Gina Spence, who runs the Champion’s Programme (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Seven young children have been left without fathers in the past three months as a result of gang and gun crime in Bermuda.

The startling statistic was lamented last night by community activist Gina Spence, who expressed her deep concern at the recent spike in murders.

Ms Spence, who runs the Champion’s Programme that supports children who have lost their father, told The Royal Gazette: “There are no winners in this sad situation”.

Her comments came as police named Jason Mello, a father of two, as the victim of Friday night’s fatal shooting.

“What is most telling to me is that in that last 90 days we have seen seven children lose their fathers,” Ms Spence said.

“That is unprecedented and should be deeply concerning to the community. It also speaks volumes to the scale of the problem.

“When we first encountered gun and gang murders, there might have been a child affected every year or so. Now there have been seven in three months and that has taken us over the 60 mark of children who have been left without fathers.”

Mr Mello, 25, was shot dead in Bandroom Lane, Pembroke, at about 7.35pm on Friday.

He was the father of a son, 6, and a four-year-old daughter.

His murder follows the death this month of Travis Lowe, which police believe came at the end of a gang-motivated chase.

Meanwhile, Patrick Dill and Fiqre Crockwell were shot dead in separate incidents in May and June respectively.

Chief Inspector Nicholas Pedro described Mr Mello’s murder as gang-related and noted it came just 72 hours after a shooting at Hamilton Parish Workman’s Club.

Ms Spence, who lost her son-in-law and great-nephew to gun violence in Bermuda, said: “This problem is just ongoing. Every family is unique and every situation is unique. But one thing we cannot deny is the devastating impact homicide has on children.”

She added: “It is not just those who have lost fathers, either. There is the other side, too, of those fathers who have been convicted of the crimes and jailed for life.

“Those children are also fatherless. That is the clear reality. Nobody wins.

“I am really concerned about the rate of recent shootings and how quickly things are happening back-to-back.

“Something horrible is happening in our community and it is happening now and impacting our children.

“We have to acknowledge what the problem is and work hard to provide the resources and support to the children left behind. We have seen change happen but we still have a long way to go.”

Meanwhile, former United Bermuda Party MP Quinton Edness called for harsher penalties for those convicted of firearm offences in the wake of Friday night’s murder. “They need to double the penalty for someone having a gun, and those who fire a gun at someone should expect life in prison,” he said.

“We have got to find ways of stopping the gun violence and one way of doing it is making sure people who might do it know that they are going away for life.”

Anyone with any information about Mr Mello’s murder should call the Serious Crime Unit on 247-1285.

To find out more about the Champion’s Programme go to www.ginaspenceproductions.com