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Gov't accepts 'ultimate responsibility' for Armadale

Published:Wednesday | March 3, 2010 | 12:00 AM

AT LEAST one human-rights body continues to express concern about the delay by Government in taking action against those fingered by the sole commissioner, Paul Harrison, for their role in the fire that claimed the lives of seven girls at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre on May 22 last year.

This comes in the wake of Prime Minister Bruce Golding's statement to Parliament yesterday on the findings of the Armadale commission of enquiry.

Executive director of Jamaicans for Justice, Dr Carolyn Gomes, commended acting Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington for taking swift action in interdicting four members of the force. However, she said, "In contrast, we are asked to wait some more to find out what exercise of his power the prime minister will be engaging in."

Golding told Parliament yesterday that Cabinet had completed a lengthy deliberation on Harrison's report. He said the matter had been referred to the director of public prosecutions, the police commissioner and the Public Service Commission for action they deem appropriate.

"Where I have the authority to do so, appropriate action will be taken," Golding added.

New management

The prime minister disclosed that the juvenile correctional and remand facilities would be placed under the Child Development Agency.

This move was welcomed by Children's Advocate Mary Clarke yesterday, who said she was looking forward to the day when no child was held in a police lock-up or any other adult correctional centre.

In a contrite declaration, the prime minister told Parliament that the Government had accepted "ultimate responsibility" for the circumstances that led to the tragedy at Armadale, despite the fact that public officers must be held accountable for the discharge of their duties.

Sweeping changes were also announced for the accommodation of children in juvenile correctional institutions.

Among the changes, the Montpelier Youth Camp in St James is to be converted into a new juvenile correctional centre for boys. The facility will house 250 boys from the Rio Cobre Juvenile Correctional Centre.

At the same time, the Rio Cobre juvenile facility will now house girls.