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Children remanded to prison!

By Bennette Roach

HMPrisonIn the estimation of many The Montserrat Reporter (TMR) is finding out, that Child Safeguarding may not yet be nearly so well understood in Montserrat. There are many conventions, rights, requirements that should have guided the authorities in these matters. See below reference to Juvenile Act (cap 2.11).

The opinion is that if the contrary to the above was anyway true, the news over last weekend that stated the name of two children aged 16 and 14 would not have been broadcast, in the first instance and in the next reporting that these two children received sentences of seven days each on charges of assault.

TMR unsuccessfully sought from the police details of the charges upon which the children were arrested (reportedly in handcuffs) but discovered that they were remanded into custody and held at the prison for one week. These two girls were detained at the prison in what was somehow described as a juvenile wing. We are informed that the wing is actually non-existent but that there were in fact some attempt made at creating such a facility. We learnt that it is a single cell facility for the detention of women.

I should disclose that I am intimately close to the circumstances, being related to the older of the two girls. It is difficult however to understand, how the police, social welfare and a magistrate somehow at the outset were not well placed to proceed differently since there were known existing circumstances related to these girls, that they should not have gone near an unsuitable site namely ‘a prison’.

The issue here is that the circumstances resulting in the charges which we discovered were discontinued was the result of a domestic fight between the two who describe themselves as ‘inseparable’ friends. It was reported that the two refused to discuss the event with the police, who only two weeks ago had undergone a workshop of training in investigating tactics and procedures in ‘child safeguarding matters’.

Child Safeguarding has become almost like a buzzword in the OECS and here in Montserrat only last week Friday Certificates of Participation in a two week course, on “child abuse, professionalizing the investigating process”, were distributed to some seventeen (17) participants from Turks and Caicos Islands, Anguilla and Montserrat.

Her Excellency the Governor is reportedly aware of the above ‘children case’ which actions by authorities may now be termed ‘child abuse’. Only few days earlier reporting on the DFID Financial Aid Mission team Miss Carriere noted that DFID was further supporting the UK Government’s initiative with regard to Child Safeguarding.

She had said the recommendations of the Lucy Faithful Foundation Report which are well advanced are expected to be implemented over the next eighteen months or so. That a lot of thought and UK policy support have gone into any response to child safeguarding on Montserrat.

Her Excellency said: “Counseling in the schools, campaigns, public campaigns…are I think making a difference to public awareness certainly in practices and in institutions, that’s one area.”

“The second thing,” she said, “is an enhanced training of police and social service workers of how to handle situations, how to handle evidence how to deal with affected people not just victims themselves but also the families and the communities.”

Indeed she said, “That’s very positive,” adding, “and finally, I’m very pleased that a decision has been made to fast track a Child Safeguarding Unit which is adequately and professionally staffed. That will be like a surge response to the additional cases that have been coming forward over the months.”

The Lucy Faith Foundation that precipitated this Unit in its report had referenced: Juvenile justice – quoting: Under the Juvenile Act (cap 2.11) a court when dealing with juveniles must have regard to the welfare of the juvenile, this must be so whether the juvenile is in need of care or protection or is before the court as an offender.

It was that Unit that has begun to take shape, but it is obvious that there are “other tools” called for by one of the trainers from two weeks ago, which are now very urgently in demand, which jointly with the Social Welfare department are now in dire need. The understanding that Child Safeguarding is not only related to sexual matters, the very base however, that invoked the circumstances of the issue here.

The ready (to be confirmed) response to questions surrounding these unfortunate events is that there is no other adequate facility, which reportedly will gain urgent attention.

The lead facilitator, Westminster Constabulary in the U.K. Detective Sargent Smart at the “…child abuse, professionalizing the investigating process” workshop did report at the conclusion of the workshop that the Montserrat can do with additional tools to carry out their work. “…we feel honoured to have maybe offered some constructive advice or additional tools that could be used to benefit island communities,” explaining later, “

The Child Justice Bill in Montserrat, requires: “…that in all actions and decisions made pursuant to the provisions of the Bill concerning a child, the safety, welfare and well-being of the child shall be of paramount consideration,…” The authorities must not do what they like and break the laws, they are required to first of all uphold them, and it must be shown in their actions and how the protect and safeguard.

There are urgent plans for a new Child Protection Act, some expect should be placed before the Legislature before the new budget year in April. However there is enough in the hands of the authorities to avoid a repeat of what has been taking place.

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By Bennette Roach

HMPrisonIn the estimation of many The Montserrat Reporter (TMR) is finding out, that Child Safeguarding may not yet be nearly so well understood in Montserrat. There are many conventions, rights, requirements that should have guided the authorities in these matters. See below reference to Juvenile Act (cap 2.11).

The opinion is that if the contrary to the above was anyway true, the news over last weekend that stated the name of two children aged 16 and 14 would not have been broadcast, in the first instance and in the next reporting that these two children received sentences of seven days each on charges of assault.

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TMR unsuccessfully sought from the police details of the charges upon which the children were arrested (reportedly in handcuffs) but discovered that they were remanded into custody and held at the prison for one week. These two girls were detained at the prison in what was somehow described as a juvenile wing. We are informed that the wing is actually non-existent but that there were in fact some attempt made at creating such a facility. We learnt that it is a single cell facility for the detention of women.

I should disclose that I am intimately close to the circumstances, being related to the older of the two girls. It is difficult however to understand, how the police, social welfare and a magistrate somehow at the outset were not well placed to proceed differently since there were known existing circumstances related to these girls, that they should not have gone near an unsuitable site namely ‘a prison’.

The issue here is that the circumstances resulting in the charges which we discovered were discontinued was the result of a domestic fight between the two who describe themselves as ‘inseparable’ friends. It was reported that the two refused to discuss the event with the police, who only two weeks ago had undergone a workshop of training in investigating tactics and procedures in ‘child safeguarding matters’.

Child Safeguarding has become almost like a buzzword in the OECS and here in Montserrat only last week Friday Certificates of Participation in a two week course, on “child abuse, professionalizing the investigating process”, were distributed to some seventeen (17) participants from Turks and Caicos Islands, Anguilla and Montserrat.

Her Excellency the Governor is reportedly aware of the above ‘children case’ which actions by authorities may now be termed ‘child abuse’. Only few days earlier reporting on the DFID Financial Aid Mission team Miss Carriere noted that DFID was further supporting the UK Government’s initiative with regard to Child Safeguarding.

She had said the recommendations of the Lucy Faithful Foundation Report which are well advanced are expected to be implemented over the next eighteen months or so. That a lot of thought and UK policy support have gone into any response to child safeguarding on Montserrat.

Her Excellency said: “Counseling in the schools, campaigns, public campaigns…are I think making a difference to public awareness certainly in practices and in institutions, that’s one area.”

“The second thing,” she said, “is an enhanced training of police and social service workers of how to handle situations, how to handle evidence how to deal with affected people not just victims themselves but also the families and the communities.”

Indeed she said, “That’s very positive,” adding, “and finally, I’m very pleased that a decision has been made to fast track a Child Safeguarding Unit which is adequately and professionally staffed. That will be like a surge response to the additional cases that have been coming forward over the months.”

The Lucy Faith Foundation that precipitated this Unit in its report had referenced: Juvenile justice – quoting: Under the Juvenile Act (cap 2.11) a court when dealing with juveniles must have regard to the welfare of the juvenile, this must be so whether the juvenile is in need of care or protection or is before the court as an offender.

It was that Unit that has begun to take shape, but it is obvious that there are “other tools” called for by one of the trainers from two weeks ago, which are now very urgently in demand, which jointly with the Social Welfare department are now in dire need. The understanding that Child Safeguarding is not only related to sexual matters, the very base however, that invoked the circumstances of the issue here.

The ready (to be confirmed) response to questions surrounding these unfortunate events is that there is no other adequate facility, which reportedly will gain urgent attention.

The lead facilitator, Westminster Constabulary in the U.K. Detective Sargent Smart at the “…child abuse, professionalizing the investigating process” workshop did report at the conclusion of the workshop that the Montserrat can do with additional tools to carry out their work. “…we feel honoured to have maybe offered some constructive advice or additional tools that could be used to benefit island communities,” explaining later, “

The Child Justice Bill in Montserrat, requires: “…that in all actions and decisions made pursuant to the provisions of the Bill concerning a child, the safety, welfare and well-being of the child shall be of paramount consideration,…” The authorities must not do what they like and break the laws, they are required to first of all uphold them, and it must be shown in their actions and how the protect and safeguard.

There are urgent plans for a new Child Protection Act, some expect should be placed before the Legislature before the new budget year in April. However there is enough in the hands of the authorities to avoid a repeat of what has been taking place.