‘Huge vic­tory for girls’

Six in Ar­madale fire to get mil­lions from Gov’t

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Jo­van John­son Staff Re­porter jo­van.john­son@glean­erjm.com

SIX FOR­MER wards at the Ar­madale Ju­ve­nile Cor­rec­tional Cen­tre de­stroyed by fire in 2009 are to get mil­lions of dol­lars fol­low­ing their vic­tory over the Gov­ern­ment in their bid to get com­pen­sa­tion for breaches of their con­sti­tu­tional rights, Chil­dren’s Ad­vo­cate Di­a­hann Gor­don Har­ri­son has said.

She, how­ever, said that she could not im­me­di­ately say how much money each girl will get.

“I’m not able to say defini­tively now be­cause once an award is given there are all kinds of costs, tax­a­tion that’s in­cluded, but they did get in ex­cess of one mil­lion, each of them,” she said.

Seven girls lost their lives and oth­ers were wounded in the fire at the St Ann-based fa­cil­ity, which put Ja­maica’s treat­ment of per­sons in state care un­der scru­tiny.

Yes­ter­day, Supreme Court judge Kirk An­der­son en­tered an oral judg­ment in favour of six of the girls who, while not phys­i­cally af­fected by the fire, had sued the Gov­ern­ment over their treat­ment at the fa­cil­ity.

“This is a vic­tory! The Of­fice of the Chil­dren’s Ad­vo­cate had in­sti­tuted suits against the Gov­ern­ment for the way in which the girls were treated, the man­ner in which they were housed, and, ul­ti­mately, breaches of their rights, in terms of hu­mane treat­ment and care con­di­tions,” Gor­don Har­ri­son said.

She added: “This re­ally is a huge vic­tory for the girls. We think that it’s some­thing that should put girls along the con­tin­ued path to re­ally deal­ing with the is­sues that they have – we’re not say­ing that money is go­ing to cure every­thing.”

When the suits were filed in 2011, the Gov­ern­ment had in­sisted up to yes­ter­day that it would not give any com­pen­sa­tion.

How­ever, it yielded yes­ter­day af­ter re­view­ing the case, in­clud­ing re­ports from psy­chol­o­gists on how the girls were af­fected by the con­di­tions at the ju­ve­nile cen­tre.

OTHER 26 CASES

The awards in favour of the girls, now adults, are ex­pected to in­flu­ence how the Gov­ern­ment and the courts will treat 26 other cases aris­ing from the Ar­madale sit­u­a­tion.

“The other 26 cases clearly now stand in very good stead. We had se­lected these six as test cases to see how the oth­ers would go. The other 26 claimants have a lot to look for­ward to,” the chil­dren’s ad­vo­cate said.

A con­di­tion of the judg­ment is that the women would re­ceive on­go­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal treat­ment and sup­port.

“This is def­i­nitely wel­comed news and a step for­ward. I would hope that the Gov­ern­ment makes all ar­range­ments for these pay­ments to be made in an ex­pe­dited man­ner,” Su­san Goffe, spokesper­son for Ja­maicans for Jus­tice, said last night.

Jac­que­line Sa­muels Brown, the lead lawyer for the claimants, said it was hoped that the rec­om­men­da­tions aris­ing out of the re­port of the Ar­madale Com­mis­sion of En­quiry and judg­ment yes­ter­day will en­sure “con­tin­ued im­prove­ment” in the care of mi­nors who are wards of the State.

In a widely re­ceived re­port, the com­mis­sion chair­man, re­tired Jus­tice Paul Har­ri­son, de­scribed the ac­tions of June Spence-Jar­rett, the then com­mis­sioner of cor­rec­tions, as “un­car­ing, in­hu­mane and neg­li­gent” af­ter 23 wards at Ar­madale were placed in an of­fice dor­mi­tory meant to ac­com­mo­date only five.

Last Au­gust, Con­sta­ble Lawrence Bur­rell, the sole per­son charged over the fire, was freed af­ter the Crown con­ceded that it could not prove he lob­bied for a can­is­ter to be thrown into a cramped dor­mi­tory, caus­ing the fire.

It was said the au­thor­i­ties were called in to re­spond to “rowdy”-be­hav­ing girls.

A skills train­ing cen­tre now op­er­ates where the ju­ve­nile fa­cil­ity was.

FILE

The burnt-out room at the Ar­madale Ju­ve­nile Cor­rec­tional Cen­tre in St Ann where five wards were killed in 2009. Two oth­ers suc­cumbed to in­juries shortly af­ter.

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