JIS News

The Upper House today (Sept.16), gave its assent to a Bill authorizing the actions of and indemnifying Judges, Resident Magistrates, Justices, Clerks of the Court and other persons who continued to hear and determine charges against persons under the age of 17 years, after the Juveniles Act was repealed.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General Senator A. J. Nicholson said the rationale for the Bill came as after the Juveniles Act was repealed by the Child Care and Protection Act in 2004, Judges, Resident Magistrates and Justices continued to hear and determine charges against persons under the age of 17 years. The Juvenile Act at the time gave Juvenile Courts jurisdiction to hear and determine charges against persons under the age of 17 years. He said with the establishment of Children’s Courts which were intended to replace the Juvenile Courts, it would mean that everything done by the former Juvenile Courts since March last year when the Child Care and Protection Act was passed would lack essential validity since they were no longer the Court designated by legislation to have jurisdiction in children’s matters.
The Attorney General said the situation was further complicated by the fact that the Child Care and Protection Act raised the legally recognizable age limit for children from 17 to 18 years with the attendant possibility that a number of persons prior to the Act would have been dealt with in the adult court when the cases should have gone to the children’s courts.
“Up to now a person between 17 and 18 years since last year March, that person should really have been dealt with in the Children’s Courts,” he noted. Senator Nicholson said based on a recommendation, a survey was to identify those persons who since March 26 last year were over 17 but under 18 years of age and had not had their matters dealt with in the proper court. These cases, he said, would now be reviewed by a Judge of the Court of Appeal following which a decision will be taken as to the appropriate order to be applied. Furthermore the Act would authorize the actions of, and indemnify all acts done in good faith between March 26 and the commencement of the Child Care and Protection Act by Resident Magistrates and Justices of the Juvenile Court and other courts.
Meanwhile Leader of Opposition Business in the Upper House, Senator Anthony Johnson said the amendment was commendable but berated the Government for what he said was “poor drafting and bad administration,” because the matter was not perused carefully enough to avoid having to redraft the legislation and having persons taken through the “wrong jurisdiction.”In his reply, Senator Nicholson said “no injustice had been done”.
Leader of Government Business, Senator Burchell Whiteman, in his remarks, noted that while the matter could not be overlooked and despite the oversight, there were significant positives being realized under the Act. He disclosed that the Health Ministry was currently working to appoint a Child Advocate by year-end and informed that some 60 children’s officers were recently appointed and were working across the island to deliver quality service to children island wide.
The Child Care and Protection Act is a comprehensive legislation and encapsulates measures contained in the now repealed Juveniles Act. Passed in both Houses of Parliament in March of 2004, the Act, which also raised the legally recognizable age limit for children from 17 to 18 years, is intended to protect children from abuse and neglect.
It also makes persons accountable for children left in their care. It includes the creation of a Child Advocate that operates as an “Ombudsman for children”, with significant powers. The Act also advocates for the establishment of a Children’s Registry, where persons can go to make complaints of abuse or abandonment, among others.