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The Office of the Children’s Advocate has recommended that more attention needs to be paid to children in the criminal justice system, to ensure compliance with the provision of the Child Care and Protection Act 2004.
This is outlined in the 2006/07 annual report of the Office of the Children’s Advocate, which was tabled in the House on June 12. “A reform of the Child Courts is urgently needed and should include the training of a cadre of judges to serve in these courts, greater use of restorative justice, less use of custodial sentences and more child friendly courts,” the report says.
Also outlined in the document is the need for the expansion and strengthening of the Witness Protection Programme to help stem the widespread fear of adverse retaliatory consequences for persons who report incidence of child abuse and neglect to the Children’s Registry. “Such expansion should, however, as much as possible, seek to ensure that affected families are kept together,” the report suggests.
Additionally, the document recommended that all persons dealing with traumatized children, especially victims, witnesses and perpetrators of abuse, crime and violence, should be exposed to training in identifying and dealing with children who are traumatized.
The need for such training, the report indicates, is most evident especially in the case of public officers, including officers in the criminal justice systems, who are among the first persons with whom such children come into contact.
The Office of the Children’s Advocate was established in 2006 under the Childcare and Protection Act 2004, for the purpose of protecting and enforcing the rights of children and promoting their well-being and welfare. Since its inception, the Legal Department has made two representations on behalf of children at the Supreme Court level. At the Family Court level, the Office has actively represented three children who are in conflict with the law. In one such instance, the Office was successful in having the matter disposed of in the child’s interest, while the others are continuing.