Staff at Victims Support Unit begins 2 day Training in Preparing Children for Court


Some 30 counsellors and volunteers attached to the Victim Support Unit (VSU) islandwide commenced a two day training workshop aimed at equipping them to better assist child victims and witnesses who have to appear before the courts.
The workshop, which is being held at the Knutsford Court Hotel from September 8th to 9th, forms part of the Children in Court Programme being spearheaded by the Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) in partnership with the VSU with support from the CUSO/VSO, a Canadian non-profit development agency.

Children’s Advocate, Mary Clarke (left), converses with volunteer of CUSO-VSO, a Canadian non-profit development agency CUSO-VSO, Laura Evans, at the opening of the Children in Court Programme’s training course at the Knutsford Court Hotel in St. Andrew, on Wednesday (September 8). Some 30 counsellors and volunteers attached to the Victim Support Unit islandwide commenced the two-day training workshop, aimed at equipping them to better assist child victims and witnesses who have to appear before the courts.

Speaking at the opening session, Mr. Osbourne Bailey, Senior Coordinator at the VSU explained that the workshop was designed to increase the capacity of the participants to “not coach, but prepare children for court,” noting that “many children who are abused are unable to function properly in court because they are unprepared.”
This lack of preparation and familiarity with the court processes, Children’s Advocate, Mrs. Mary Clarke, said was a cause for concern. Mrs. Clarke, who brought greetings on behalf of the OCA, stated that she had received reports where cases involving children breakdown in the Justice System because the children were unable to handle the court processes.
Based on these reports, she explained, that the OCA conducted a research into the “Experiences of Children in State Care Appeared before the Court” to hear directly from the children how they were treated when they were brought before the courts.
One of the recommendations that came out of the study was to implement an initiative modeled after the Canadian “Kids In Court Programme” to prepare children for court proceedings.

Children’s Advocate, Mary Clarke (left), consults with Senior Co-ordinator, Victim Support Unit in the Ministry of Justice, Osbourne Bailey, at the opening of the Children in Court training course at the Knutsford Court Hotel in St. Andrew, on Wednesday (September 8). About 30 counsellors and volunteers attached to the Victim Support Unit islandwide commenced the two-day training workshop, aimed at equipping them to better assist child victims and witnesses who have to appear before the courts.

This idea was shared with CUSO/VSO, who agreed to provide technical support for the development and implementation of the “Children in Court Programme”. Ms. Laura Evan, a CUSO/VSO volunteer was assigned to the OCA in 2009 for the development of the project.
Over the two days, the participants will be exposed to various best practices in the areas of ethics in court room settings, tools to help children through the court systems and methods to assist children and their parents or significant others to cope with court system and the outcome of the trial. There will also be a field visit to the Half Way Tree Court House.

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