Youth Court officially commissioned
In keeping with the recently passed Juvenile Justice Act, the Children’s Court was on Wednesday commissioned at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court.
Magistrates Dylon Bess and Annette Singh will preside over the daily sessions. They received training over the past few months in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States (US.)
An estimated $590M is expected to be procured for Guyana to run a child-friendly criminal justice system in accordance with the Juvenile Justice Act.
In delivering the feature address at the opening ceremony, Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan told the gathering that the journey commenced in 2014 when Government delivered its first report to Parliament on the rights of the child.
“Our Government wants to see an Act which reflects this modern philosophy of juvenile justice; one which strengthens the justice system for juveniles and makes it more responsive to them and their situation,” Mr Ramjattan said.
He explained that the Act provides a framework where professionals are at the forefront supporting juveniles rather than police and prison wardens.
“We want to minimise that harsh punishment meted out to our young offenders which then stigmatize them for life…We want to maximise their education, rehabilitation and reintegration into society.”
In 2019, two more Children’s Courts are expected to be commissioned in Berbice and Essequibo and then in all the Magisterial Districts across Guyana.
Mr Ramjattan added that he will soon seek Cabinet’s approval for a Juvenile Justice Director and two assistants.
Also on the agenda for 2019 are temporary remand centres for boys and girls.
“This will certainly assist helping them not to fall deeper in a life of crime and helping our country from becoming, what I regularly term a jailhouse nation,” the Security Minister said.
Also speaking at the ceremony was Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams who explained that the main goal of any juvenile system is rehabilitation and not punishment.
Chancellor of the Judiciary, Yonette Cummings-Edwards said that the Juvenile Justice Act is more of a restorative approach aimed at involving the offender, victim, parents and society.