JIS News

The House of Representatives yesterday (Oct. 4) approved a provision approving and indemnifying the actions of Judges, Resident Magistrates, Justices, Clerk of the Court and other persons who continued to hear and determine charges against persons under the age of 17 years in Juvenile Courts after the establishment of the Children’s Courts.
National Security Minister, Dr. Peter Phillips who piloted the legislation said after the Juveniles Act was repealed by the Child Care and Protection Act in 2004, Judges, Resident Magistrates and Justices continued to hear and determine charges against persons under the age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, this meant that everything done by the former Juvenile Courts since March last year when the Child Care Act was passed would “lack essential validity”. This since they were no longer the Court designated by legislation to have jurisdiction in children’s matters.
The National Security Minister said the situation was further complicated by that fact that the Child Care Act raised the legally recognizable age bar 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.
“As a result persons over 17 but under 18 may have been sentenced since March 26, 2004 as if the Child Care and Protection Act had not been passed,” he noted. Dr. Phillips 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 did not have 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 would be taken as to the appropriate order to be applied.
The Act therefore serves to authorize the actions of, and indemnify all acts done in good faith by Resident Magistrates and Justices of the Juvenile Court and other courts between March 26, 2004 and the commencement of the Child Care and Protection Act from civil or criminal proceedings as a result of such actions.
Clause three of the Bill endows the Children’s Courts with the requisite jurisdiction to adjudicate all cases transferred to it from the Juveniles Court upon the commencement of the Act regardless of whether or not the case had begun, before, on or after March 26, 2004 as well as the power to enforce penalties as if the proceedings had commenced in the Children’s Court.
The Child Care and Protection Act is a comprehensive legislation that encapsulates measures contained in the now repealed Juveniles Act. Passed in both Houses of Parliament in March of 2004, the Act, which also raises the legally recognizable age bar 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 great 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.