JAMAICA needs a 'child-friendly' justice system

Summary: Chief Justice Zaila McCalla has underscored the need for a 'child-friendly' justice system, guaranteeing effective implementation of children's rights provisions, at the highest possible level.

She contended that this was necessary to ensure that proceedings, involving children, conform to the requirements of international instruments to which Jamaica is party or signatory.

She was addressing last Thursday's presentation of the Office of the Children's Advocate's findings of its study, 'Profile of Children in Conflict with the Law'.

Noting that the safety, security and survival of Jamaica's children have been under threat for a long time, McCalla lamented the high incidence of crimes committed by children in recent years.

easy prey

She also bemoaned reports of children, invariably, recruited by criminals in their communities. She said boys who drop out of school become easy prey for criminals, as the involvement in crime is seen as a way to obtain the power and recognition denied at home.

"Children are basically good, (but) mostly, they turn out to be otherwise because of parental neglect, negative influences and bad environment," she said.

Alluding to a seminar on children's rights jointly staged last November by the United Nations Children's Fund and the Ministry of Justice for judges, Mrs. McCalla recalled that one of the points raised was that children coming into contact with the justice system, as victims, offenders or witnesses, should be handled with 'special care' because of their vulnerability.

She said international standards require promotion of the establishment of laws, procedures and institutions that respect the rights of children in conflict with the law, and are directed to their rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

"If, for example, our courts and correctional and other facilities are designed to accommodate adults only, they will lack the capacity to adequately address several issues, as they relate to the rehabilitation of the child and will, more likely, harm than improve a child's chances for rehabilitation and reintegration into society," she argued.

pdf: http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20110314/news/news10.html

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