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Proposal to dump 'uncontrollable' designation for violent children

Published:Monday | May 22, 2017 | 12:00 AMJovan Johnson
Rodje Malcolm

Two new measures called the Care Order and the Antisocial Behaviour Order are being proposed for the courts to use in treating with children. They would formally replace the 'uncontrollable' designation that some advocates argue results in the abuse of the rights of minors.

The Child Development Agency (CDA) recommended that the new orders be included in the Child Care and Protection Act, one piece of the legislation being reviewed by a joint select committee of the Parliament. The Delroy Chuck-chaired panel of lawmakers is hearing from a wide range of stakeholders on how to improve Jamaica's sex laws and is due to meet again on Thursday.

The care and antisocial orders are for children who have not committed a crime but have displayed violent behaviour.

"These act as injunctions against certain unwanted behaviour, or provide the basis on which courts treat children with mental health or psychosocial issues," the CDA said in its submission.

The agency said the changes in the law would still give parents the option of bringing children under those orders to court. But emphasis would be placed on the outcomes that would be designed "to assess, treat and reintegrate children in the home and assist the family in creating an appropriate environment for the child".

Untangling orders under Child Care and Protection Act

Last year, The Gleaner reported that 611 children were locked up in juvenile correctional centres operated between 2011 and 2015. Some 91 of that number were deemed uncontrollable.

Jamaicans for Justice Advocacy Manager Rodje Malcolm insisted then that deprivation of liberty does not serve the best interests of the child and should be a last resort.

"Based on our research and visits to the institutions, it has become clear that there is growing consensus that unnecessary detention can truly destroy a child irreparably. it is incumbent upon the Government to urgently plug the implementation gap and take meaningful action on the delayed child diversion programme," he said.

Meanwhile, the Child Development Agency says further guidance is needed under the Child Care and Protection Act on how the range of orders available to the court should be utilised, monitored and amended.

"The law and procedures of the children's courts should emphasise the use, where possible, of non-custodial options for dealing with both children in need of care and protection and child offenders," the agency said.

It added that a monitoring system for the enforcement of orders should accompany changes to the law. The orders would include community service, protection or curfew orders.