26th April 2016
Antigua and Barbuda has closed out the first phase of the Juvenile Justice Reform Project in grand style, as the country is among six other OECS countries to house the first ever family courtroom, which will deal exclusively with juvenile matters.
Director General of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean State, Dr. Didacus Jules said the country should be proud of this accomplishment as other countries within the region look forward to follow the precedent that Antigua and Barbuda has set.
Jules stated it should not just be viewed as a courtroom, but ensuring members of the public that family courtroom is a real hall for justice.
"We all look forward to the establishment of this court, so across the wider Caribbean we can learn and replicate this development. We expect that this court will process the island's youth quickly and in the best interest of the child, the OECS Director General added.
The United States Ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Sates Linda Talialatela, congratulated officials for the positive strides made in the Juvenile Justice Reform Project and the level of commitment shown throughout the region.
Talialatela added that the $5.8 million initiative placed the juvenile justice reform on an upward trajectory in the region and commended Antigua and Barbuda for being one among three OECS countries to pass a model Child Justice Bill into law, signaling a true commitment to juvenile justice reform.
"We congratulate you on this development and remain hopeful that the necessary amendment will be made in the near to change the age of criminal responsibility from 8 years to 12 years, as is recognized internationally. We are also mindful of the steps that juvenile justice authorizes here are taking to ensure youth in conflict with law are eventually housed in spate facilities from adults," the Ambassador pointed out.
The US Ambassador pledged her governments continued support through the USAID to strengthening diversion approaches and helping at-risk youth successfully reintegrate into their communities and that given the requisite support, such youth could and would meaningfully contribute to Antigua and Barbuda Development.
Attorney General, Minister of Legal Affairs, Public Safety and Labour the Hon. Steadroy Cutie Benjamin thanked the US Ambassador, USAID, OECS and the local and regional team who all worked to make the program a resounding success.
Benjamin further pledged his government's continued support in ensuring that programs are developed to make sure that the youths of the nation are rehabilitated and are able to make meaningful contributions to society.
The Minister further noted that he will further look at the legislation and have further discussions on the age of criminal responsibility.
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