Judges more sensitive to children’s rights, says advocate
Since the publication of the Child Justice Guidelines, more judges are protecting the rights of youth who have become entangled with the law, noted Children's Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison.
"We know that certainly from our own interface with the justice system, more judges are being proactive in the protection of children in their everyday management of cases," Gordon Harrison told The Gleaner earlier this week.
The Office of the Children's Advocate Child Justice Guidelines was launched in 2013, and
since then, stakeholders and practitioners have been applying the outlined recommendations.
"We started in a very modest way with the members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, more in terms of regional caucuses, which would have exposed them to what the guidelines said and how they can apply it to children, who are either victims of crime or who are actually accused of committing a crime," explained Gordon Harrison.
"Then we upscale it quite a bit and we had very successful interventions with the Jamaica judiciary, whereby we interfaced with the Parish Court judges, Supreme Court judges and Court of Appeal judges, with financial support from UNICEF, in exposing them to the existence of the guidelines."
She added, "It is really just looking at practical ways that judges can deal with the appropriateness of how to manage the cases to ensure children's rights are not abridged or they are not uncomfortable with the criminal-justice process."
Gordon Harrison said that since that sensitisation exercise, especially with the judges, the Office of the Children's Advocate has been getting more referrals from the courts. She also noted that a specialist child attorney, who is aware of children's issues, is used to guide specific cases.
"We know that behaviour change takes time and we are doing monitoring and evaluation just to see the impact of the training on the criminal-justice system, and once those results are ready, we will share it," she noted.