Baramita Youth freed after 7 years wait for trial
By Devina Samaroo
Eon Henry was only 13-years-old when he was incarcerated on a murder charge.
A few days ago, the charge against him was finally dismissed after seven years of waiting for the case to go to trial while he remained confined at the Sophia Holding Center, without legal representation.
“From the age of 13 to the age of 19, during this process, I was denied my right to education. How could I go back to a secondary school to start over back my whole educational process?
“It’s impossible…my dream has been snatched away from me by the system, my whole future has been jeopardized by the system,” Eon told reporters on Thursday during a press conference organised by the Ministry of Public Security.
Eon attended the Baramita Primary School in Region One at the time of his arrest in 2011. When the charge was laid against him, he was forced to say goodbye to his parents. Eon was placed in the Sophia Juvenile Holding Centre in Georgetown.
For years, the teenager remained in the lock ups without any legal representation until 2015 when the Rights of the Child Commission in collaboration with UNICEF and the Guyana Legal Aid Clinic offered support.
Following close to three years of persistent representation, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions finally dropped the charge.
Though he is a free man today, Eon said he will forever be scarred for he was merely a young boy being thrown into a ruthless world.
“If it wasn’t for the RCC, UNICEF and Guyana Legal Aid Clinic, I would have still been in prison right now, suffering. Because that’s all prison was about, sufferation…this is prison life, you are treated harshly like dogs, it’s very inhumanely,” Eon recalled.
Eon said his heart goes out to the other children who are currently facing similar challenges. The young man is calling for immediate changes to the juvenile justice system so that children do not waste their lives away behind bars, like he did.
Last year, the Rights of the Child Commission reported that 90% of juvenile delinquents are denied their right to legal representation. The Commission said, in some cases, families simply cannot afford it.
This is why the RCC teamed up with UNICEF and the Legal Aid Clinic to roll out a programme to provide free legal representation to approximately 200 children at the Sophia Holding Centre.
The Juvenile Justice Bill, which contains sweeping changes to the system, was recently passed in the National Assembly and is now awaiting the presidential assent.
The Bill is hailed as revolutionary as it seeks to prevent situations like Eon’s from happening. Among other things, it provides alternative sentencing for young people and it mandates that every child who is at odds with the law to have legal representation.
For now, Eon is committed to making the most of his life. The young man said he will be signing up at the Sophia Training Centre to learn a trade and try to reintegrate himself into society.