Editor’s note: The British Union Conference has released the following statement in response to a May 5 court verdict regarding the death of a child who was part of a Seventh-day Adventist congregation in Nottingham, England. Kay-Ann Morris, 23, was convicted of child cruelty for inflicting two years of “unimaginable” punishments on her 7-year-old niece, Shanay Walker, and jailed for eight years, London’s Telegraph newspaper reported. Morris, who attended the Nottingham church with her niece, was cleared of murder in the jury trial.
A court in Nottingham today [May 5] sentenced Kay-Anne Morris to eight years in prison for child cruelty, and her mother, Juanila Smikle to four years.
Kay-Anne was acquitted of the charge of murder against her niece, 7-year-old Shanay Rihanna Walker, who tragically died in July 2014. Ms. Morris was her legal guardian at the time.
A number of media outlets have noted that Ms. Morris is a Seventh-day Adventist. Until her arrest she was attending the Adventist church in the St. Ann’s area of Nottingham.
Members and leadership at the church were both shocked and saddened to hear of the tragic death of Shanay, who was a valued child within the church family. Since her death, local church members have provided support to all members of the family and their friends through a very difficult period and have kept them wholeheartedly in their prayers. It is especially important for people going through difficult times to be offered spiritual and physical care.
The Adventist Church believes strongly in positive family values and affirms the dignity and worth of every human being. As such, we strongly feel the pain of this particular situation.
In recent years the Adventist Church has also invested heavily in Keeping the Church Family Safe (KCFS), including training child safety representatives and ensuring that those working with children and vulnerable people are checked by DBS [editors: Disclosure and Barring Service, a government agency that carries out background checks]. Ms. Morris’ church in Nottingham has participated in this process in addition to running an active family ministries department.
In responding to today’s sentencing the St. Ann’s minister, pastor Curtis Murphy, stated: “Our aim is to create an environment in the church and in the home that is safe for healthy minds and relationships to develop to their full potential. We decry all forms of abuse and family violence. Our prayers are with all who are hurting.”
The Adventist Church in the U.K. serves some 35,000 members and their surrounding communities, offering health and lifestyle programs as well as providing biblical answers to life’s questions. More about the church can be found by visiting the Seventh-day Adventist website: adventist.org.uk.