No long wait, says magistrate
ACCUSED PERSONS who are sent to the Drug Treatment Court (DTC) will no longer have to wait for a whole year to enrol in the programme.
The court will now operate continuously, accepting clients all year round.
This was announced by Magistrate Graveney Bannister, who heads the court, at the third graduation yesterday of the programme since its inception in 2015.
“Currently there are 11 clients in the Continuous Court. Plans are afoot for establishing a second Drug Continuous Court in the future [which will be] manned by Magistrate Elwood Watts next month,” he said during the graduation ceremony for 14 members, held at the Cane Garden Municipal Complex in Cane Garden, St Thomas.
He added the court was in dire need of assistance and manpower, including an administrator, as the programme moved from once a year to bi-annually.
Previously, if the programme began in January and a person was sent to it in February, the individual could not join until the next January. Now with the continuous system, people would be able to enter twice a year.
Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson, who also addressed the ceremony, asked those within the judiciary to utilise the services of the DTC.
“I get annoyed when I read the newspaper and I see someone who has nine convictions for drug offences and has been fined for possession of drugs. That person is obviously addicted. There is no point in convicting them and fining them some sum of money with the alternative of being sent to prison and not sending them to Drug Treatment Court.
“You have not cured the problem . . . . All you have done is to send the person through a revolving door. That does not make sense,” he stressed.
In his turn, Minister of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson said the DTC had proven to be a viable and impactful alternative to prison sentences.
“They have been found to effectively reduce crime, to reduce relapse into drug use and to reduce the overall quantity of incarcerated individuals in our jails. They are cost effective in an era when Government has a duty not only to protect the physical security of its nationals, but also to ensure the financial integrity of its country,” he said.
Hinkson, an attorney, added the DTC had helped the criminal justice system.
“We at the policy-making level need to ensure . . . that our graduates, past and future, are followed up in their community set-up. This requires some financial input for which we need private sector support. Our country cannot afford for them to relapse,” he said, adding that a third of the prison population was there due to drug-related offences Hinkson said that according to statistics, the average age of drug participation started at age ten.
Sir Marston encouraged all the graduates to strive to be like one of the participants, Yvette Poirine, who had died during the course.
“Whilst attending the programme she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She never stopped. She continued attending the programme and kept it very secret. Only at the last minute did we know what was happening with her.
“If you want to talk about commitment and dedication, if you want to talk about a desire to rewire your brain, that is the inspiring example that I commend to you. As far as I am concerned she did not die an addict, she died an inspiration,” he said, adding they would set up something in her name for those in the programme to follow.
MARSTON GIBSON (FP)
CHIEF JUSTICE SIR