JIS News

Children’s Advocate, Mary Clarke, said today (September 7), that her office has undertaken several activities, particularly a series of public education fora, to inform the public about her role in protecting the rights of children.
“We are mandated by law to educate the public. We have had many, many opportunities to address different audiences, and we have had many opportunities for media interviews. We have addressed schools, church groups and civic groups,” said Mrs. Clarke. She was speaking at a press briefing, held at the Courtleigh Hotel in New Kingston.
The Advocate said there were plans by the office to be more national in its public education endeavours. She noted that the agency had made several visits to children’s homes across the island. “Just yesterday, we visited two places in Spanish Town dealing with children as we have had some reports on street children in Spanish Town. We were so happy when we went out there to get a first hand experience of the kind of work that is being done, and the best practices that need to be highlighted and replicated, if we are going to deal with the problems,” said Mrs. Clarke.
The Advocate pointed out that the office had to make some 40 referrals to the relevant agencies since the start of the year, and she was encouraging persons to visit the office, which is located at 75 Harbour Street in downtown Kingston.
“We are encouraging them to come until they know where to go, because persons need to have somewhere where they can talk when they are having problems with their children or when the child has been abused. These we refer to the Child Development Agency or to the police as the case may require,” said Mrs. Clarke.
In the meantime, she said that the agency has been receiving numerous calls regarding children in lock-ups.
“When a child is detained at the lock-up, the first step is for the child to be brought to court, so that the child can be granted bail if the situation is such that the child can be granted bail. If, however, the situation exists where the child cannot be brought to court, then that child can be granted what is called station bail, by the senior officer in charge of the police station at which the child is detained,” said Sophia Frazier-Binns, Legal Policy Officer in the office of the Children’s Advocate.
She added that the senior officer at the police station has the responsibility to inform the Child Development Agency, which has responsibility for care and protection of children.
Mrs. Frazier also informed that the senior officer at the police station might not, in certain circumstances, be able to grant bail, one of which was in the case of murder, or where the child’s interest was in jeopardy.
“In such an instance, the office which has responsibility for the care and protection of the child must be informed, and that office is responsible for having that child detained in a juvenile remand centre until the child can be brought before the court,” she said.
Mrs. Clarke said that the office of the Children’s Advocate would be working to deal with the issues of street children and child workers.
“We are very concerned about street and working children and we will be continuing our advocacy for a comprehensive programme, and clearly outline institutional mechanisms and provision of resources to deal with this problem,” she pointed out.

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