Lifeline Ministries Executive Director says CRIN Report should spur more action on juvenile justice
Lifeline Ministries Executive Director Tina Alexander says CRIN Report should encourage more action on juvenile justice in Dominica. A recent global report ranked Dominica 145th in access to justice for children. The report, produced by White & Case LLP in February 2014 for Child Rights International Network (CRIN) and published on Monday February 15, 2016, ranked Dominica 7th among the thirteen CARICOM member states and 4th among the seven OECS member states.
CRIN assessed “whether children can bring lawsuits when their rights are violated, legal resources available to them, practical considerations for taking legal action and whether international law on children’s rights is applied in national courts”. Government, in a statement issued on Wednesday, objected to the report on the basis that it did not give “a true reflection” of the country’s position, since a child can bring a civil case pursuant to Civil Procedures Rule, and the Magistrate’s Code of Conduct.
Government also objected on the basis that the Legal Aid Clinic offers services to low income families at a relatable fee and the existence of a number of laws which makes provision for children namely; The Employment of Children (prohibition) Act, the Employment of Women, Young Persons and Children Act and The Children and Young Person Act.
However, Mrs Alexander said Dominica should seize this opportunity to review juvenile justice more carefully and not be too defensive about the report. She acknowledged that Dominica is trying its best with limited resources available but juvenile justice “remains a problem”. “The issue with juvenile justice in Dominica is about juveniles, who have actually offended, not having any rehabilitation opportunities & are being treated as young adults, in adult facilities,” she explained.
“Although there is a separate cell for juveniles at the State Prison, there is no different treatment for them, there is no help for them to be reformed. In fact, I suspect that the young people at the prison are busy learning how to be better criminals,” Mrs Alexander continued. She said there is urgent need for government to address this issue and find resources for a separate juvenile facility.
Mrs. Alexander added that there are also issues with the juvenile court, despite the fact that Magistrate Gloria Augustus “does her best to manage the juvenile offenders in a more sympathetic way than she would do adults. However, she really doesn’t have a lot of non-custodial options in terms of proper probation officers trained to do some serious intervention with those offenders,” she stated.
Additionally, Mrs Alexander indicated that currently, probation officers are very absorbed with other responsibilities, and are hard pressed to produce the reports that are needed. “We really do need politicians to be committed and think differently in the way that we provide resources for juveniles, so we can stop them from becoming adult offenders,” she concluded.
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