JIS News

Deputy Children’s Advocate, Justice Henderson Downer, says the Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) is currently conducting investigations into the injuries of some 30 children in the West Kingston community of Tivoli Gardens.
It is believed that the minors, who range in age from one year to 17 years, were injured during the recent joint police/military operations in the community.
Justice Downer said the investigators are seeking to discover whether the children were in fact injured by criminals involved in armed conflicts with the joint police/military team or by the security forces.
The Deputy Children’s Advocate was speaking on July 12, during a press briefing at the OCA, on Harbour Street, downtown Kingston.
“We have asked our two investigators to go into Tivoli Gardens, because we have a list of children who are injured, some of them as young as one year old. What we have asked them to do, is to find out how the injuries took place,” he said.
He said this will also include obtaining medical evidence in order to ascertain the nature of the injuries. “It’s only by medical evidence that we can quantify the compensation, which we will seek from the Attorney General,” he advised.
Justice Downer, who is a retired judge of the Court of Appeal, said the OCA completed the data collection last week.
“We have the information, but not the detailed evidence of the injuries. We just have the (bare) information – these children have been injured – that’s all we have at the moment,’ he noted.
In the meantime, Children’s Advocate, Mary Clarke, reiterated her concerns for the welfare of children in the west Kingston community.
“We are concerned, because children have been traumatised and we know the impact of trauma on children when it begins to manifest itself into inappropriate behaviour,” she argued.
However, Mrs. Clarke said she was very pleased with the level of intervention being carried out by various agencies, including the Ministry of Education. “They (Ministry of Education) have taken on the counselling fully and they are even trying to get a fulltime psychiatrist in the area,” she revealed. “So, instead of taking the children and referring them to guidance clinics and sending them out, they are going to locate a fulltime psychiatrist for the area,” she added.
The Children’s Advocate said she hoped that parents and guardians of the children would understand and recognise the importance of counselling and allow their children to get the assistance and attention that they need.
She pointed out that various organisations have planned social excursions, including camping trips, for the children to take them outside of the community. “(They are taking them) into non-residential settings, so that they can do some healing, therapy and re-socialisation,” she said.
Mrs. Clarke stressed that the children must be treated and counselled within their families in order to ensure sustained healing. “If you take the children and you try to heal and restore them and they go back to family members who are still bitter and angry, it may not last,” she advised.
She said the OCA was particularly interested in children who have lost their main breadwinner due to the unrest in Tivoli Gardens, and is seeking to provide those children with assistance from the relevant institutions.

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