Juvenile laws up for reform
BARBADOS is seeking to reform its juvenile justice system whose laws have been described as inadequate to deal with the present generation of youth.
As a result, the Ministry of Home Affairs in collaboration with UNICEF will host a National Conference on Juvenile Justice from April 21 to 23 under the theme Redefining Juvenile Justice …Towards a Better Future.
The conference will be held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
This morning at a media launch, Minister of Home Affairs, Adriel Brathwaite said the draft juvenile bill will be on his desk in the next couple of weeks, in time for the conference.
He pointed out that the Juvenile Offenders Act and the Reformatory Industrial School Act were also 100 years-old and as a result the legislation, which still speaks of whipping boys and placing them on ships as punishment, was outdated and in need of reform.
“We have to agree what is the minimum age we will hold a child accountable for his/her actions whether that be 12 or 13 and if we will continue to have juveniles incarcerated at Dodds as we presently do,” he said.
Principal of the Government Industrial School, Erwin Leacock stressed that continued use of the system “will undoubtedly result in unnecessary hurt and trauma not only to young people and their families but to the community in general.
Chief probation officer Dorita Lovell welcomed the reform saying that the law as it was now presented a number of challenges to the Probation Department especially in terms of it legally being able to deal with children between the ages of 16 to 18.
She revealed that as of February there were 122 males on probation and 37 females, mainly referred for assault, disturbances and drugs. However, the highest numbers of offences were assault following by wandering.
Lovell, however, expressed concern about children being sentenced to the Government Industrial School for three to five years saying there were adults who committed more serious offences but received shorter periods in prison. (MB)