Minister of Youth and Culture, Hon. Lisa Hanna, says Cabinet is to consider expanding the role of the Child Development Agency (CDA) to give it jurisdiction over children in police lockups.
Speaking at a press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister on Tuesday (December 18), Minister Hanna informed that the CDA has no legal authority over children in lockups, other than for their care and protection, operating through Protection Orders from the Court.
She stated that the agency also has no legal jurisdiction over children in correctional and remand facilities on Correctional or Remand Orders from the Court.
“Cabinet will consider any possible change to this legal framework within the context of amendments to the Child Care and Protection Act and the National Plan of Action for Child Justice (2010-2014), which contemplates the adoption, with modifications, of the United Nations Rules for the Protection of Children Deprived of their Liberty (1990),” she informed.
This possible change in the CDA’s role is one of the recommendations from the Inter-Ministerial Working Group that is to be submitted to Cabinet in early January. Minister Hanna convened the task force in September to bring greater co-ordination to addressing the problem of children in conflict with the law.
The working group also recommended the urgent implementation of the strategic objectives outlined in the National Plan of Action for Child Justice.
These include: increasing the number of family court judges; including in the review of the Child Care and Protection Act, an increased number of options available to courts in dealing with child offenders such as Attendance Centre Orders; promoting diversion from incarceration as a tool for restorative justice and to establish child diversion committees in each parish to limit children being incarcerated; and creating legislation to authorize the police to deal with young offenders by diversion rather than prosecution.
Also among the working group’s recommendations is theestablishment of a board of visitors for juvenile corrections and remand centres to monitor conditions in these facilities, and ensure that they meet minimum standards. Ms. Hanna informed that the draft regulations to establish a board of visitors has been finalised.
The task force has also called for the fast-tracking of the implementation of the National Child Diversion Policy, which provides alternatives to custodial orders for juveniles, who come in conflict with the law. “The Government is now moving to have public consultations on the policy and to ensure its implementation in short order,” Ms. Hanna informed.
She said the establishment of a “parenting order” as an additional option for imposition by the court, is also being explored. The CDA, the Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) and the Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR) have consulted with the Chief Justice on this recommendation, she said.
The working group includes representatives of the Ministries of Justice, Youth and Culture, National Security, Health, Education and Finance and Planning; the Department of Corrections; the Jamaica Constabulary Fore (JCF); the CDA; the OCA; the OCR; the Attorney General’s Chambers; and the Commissioner of Lands.