Se­nate passes Child Di­ver­sion Bill

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Ed­mond Camp­bell/ Se­nior Staff Re­porter ed­mond.camp­bell@glean­erjm.com

THE UP­PER House yes­ter­day ap­proved the Child Di­ver­sion Bill, paving the way for chil­dren who are in con­flict with the law to be dealt with un­der a spe­cial regime in­stead of in­sti­tut­ing crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings against the young­sters.

Law­mak­ers gave the nod to the new l eg­is­la­tion with 13 amend­ments. The bill was pi­loted by Min­is­ter of In­for­ma­tion and Youth Ruel Reid.

Ear­lier this year, the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives ap­proved the bill with 33 amend­ments.

In his con­tri­bu­tion to de­bate on the leg­isla­tive mea­sure, Gov­ern­ment Se­na­tor Charles Sin­clair said that Ja­maica was a sig­na­tory to var­i­ous United Na­tions Con­ven­tions on the Rights of the Child and noted that the pas­sage of this bill would in­di­cate the coun­try’s com­mit­ment to the im­ple­men­ta­tion of mea­sures to en­sure that chil­dren who com­mit of­fences were treated in a man­ner that up­holds hu­man dig­nity.

DE­PLORABLE CON­DI­TION

Sin­clair be­moaned the con­di­tion of the fa­cil­i­ties in St James where chil­dren who com­mit of­fences were de­tained. The Gov­ern­ment leg­is­la­tor told his col­league sen­a­tors that he vis­ited a fa­cil­ity where chil­dren were held in the parish. Ac­cord­ing to Sin­clair, “Tears al­most come to my eyes to see the con­di­tion i n which our chil­dren are [held]. Who find them­selves in con­flict with the law, who are pre­sumed in­no­cent, but they find them­selves i n dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances.”

A sug­ges­tion from Op­po­si­tion Se­na­tor Damion Craw­ford for the leg­is­la­tion to ben­e­fit, not only chil­dren up to 18 years but young adults up to 30 years, was not ac­cepted by gov­ern­ment mem­bers.

Craw­ford had ar­gued that a 19-year-old may com­mit a first of­fence that did not war­rant se­ri­ous crim­i­nal sanc­tion. He had rec­om­mended that the mea­sure be re­named the Youth Di­ver­sion Bill.

In her con­tri­bu­tion to de­bate on the bill, Op­po­si­tion Se­na­tor Sophia Frazer-Binns wel­comed the new mea­sure, say­ing that it was timely. Ac­cord­ing to Fraz­erBinns, be­tween 2012 and 2013, more than 479 chil­dren found them­selves in con­flict with the law. The fol­low­ing year, the num­ber in­creased to 565 with the main of­fences be­ing sex­ual in­ter­course with a mi­nor, rape and ag­gra­vated as­sault. She in­di­cated that many of these cases which were placed be­fore the courts could now be han­dled un­der the Child Di­ver­sion pro­gramme.

FRAZER-BINNS

SIN­CLAIR

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