Tobago’s juvenile offenders will have an avenue to be reformed and to address their behavioural issues.
The Juvenile Court Project, the first of its kind on the island, is being developed to help children who are first-time offenders, with minor non-violent violations. Currently, there is no system in place to deal specifically with young persons who commit crimes.
The project will give children between the ages of seven and 17 an alternative to facing the court and prison systems, and will focus on treatment to prevent repeated negative behaviour. It will involve juvenile peer resolution councils or centres, according to Secretary for the Division of Health and Social Services, Claudia Groome-Duke.
“It is engaging the young people to be a part of the whole process,” Groome-Duke explained. “So in terms of the court procedure now, we will have the movement towards peers treating with peers in the process, which now means that we have to change mindsets.”
Secretary for the Division of Education, Youth Affairs and Sport (DEYAS) Huey Cadette said the project will deal with offences within schools as well, in a “better, more rehabilitative manner.”
Officials from DEYAS and the Tobago House of Assembly will work alongside the Juvenile Court team in Trinidad on the project. They are hoping that once further planning and training are conducted, the youth court aspect of the project will be set up by September (2015).