Minister of Justice, Hon. Delroy Chuck, says progress is being made in the implementation of the National Child Diversion Programme.
The Minister, who was making his contribution to the 2020/21 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on June 24, noted that, so far, 13 Child Diversion Parish Offices have been established, core staff for the programme appointed, and 13 Child Diversion Parish Committees selected.
In addition, non-governmental and community-based organisations have been engaged to bridge the gap between communities and the programme, mentors trained to bolster the work of the programme, and a national education campaign for the sensitisation of all stakeholders executed.
“The achievement of these objectives brought child diversion to the cusp of a full all-island rollout by March 2020. Unfortunately, the reduction of court activities and other coronavirus (COVID-19)-related factors hampered the pace of the operationalisation,” Mr. Chuck said.
The Child Diversion Act was brought into full effect in December 2019.
The national programme aims to, among other things, reduce the number of children who are charged with offences and exposed to the formal criminal justice system as a result, and increase the use of diversionary programmes that rehabilitate children as a response to crime and wrongdoing.
Meanwhile, with 22 children referred to the programme up to March 2020, Minister Chuck said that the diversion programme is not for those deemed uncontrollable.
“The Child Diversion Act is designed to deal with children who commit specific offences, all of which are set out in the Child Diversion Act, 2018. It does not make provisions for children deemed uncontrollable, as this is not a charge or criminal offence,” he noted.
Mr. Chuck pointed out that another unit of the Justice Ministry, the Legal Aid Council, can provide legal assistance in these cases.