June 12, 2021

The Editor speaks: Youth offenders are not high priority

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Colin Wilsonweb2The Cayman Islands Chief justice, Anthony Smellie, did not mince his words when he gave his speech at the 2016 opening of the Grand Court.

On the subject of youth offenders he said:

“We are obliged to note the ongoing absence of an appropriate remand facility for youth offenders and must renew once again, the call to Government to rectify the situation. Everyone accepts that Eagle House does not meet the appropriate standards because it is within the confines of the adult prison at Northward (as indeed the facility at Fairbanks Prison for women renders that institution unsuitable for the detention of young girls). We understand that regrettably, work which should have commenced last year on a suitable facility has once again been delayed and we therefore take this opportunity to remind those in charge of the importance of doing everything we possibly can to restore our young offenders to a proper way of life. Exposing them to the adult prison environment continues to be an unacceptable and sad failure on the part of the state and a terrible abrogation of the rights of these young people to fair and proper treatment under the law.

Then he spoke about the DCFS and Probation services again relating to young persons:

“A related problem that continues to hamper the disposal of cases involving children and young persons is the insufficient number of personnel at DCFS and Probation assigned to handle the mandates of the Courts.

“Of necessity, social workers and Probation officers are involved in public law applications under the Children Law and cases involving youth offenders. DCFS officers are also needed to provide welfare and social enquiry reports in private law cases and in Family Court matters. The shortage of personnel affects the timeliness of their output and this in turn inevitably slows down the rate at which cases can be disposed. Once again, we therefore urge the Government to provide the increase in personnel so badly needed by these very pressed and hard-working Departments.

“Practical and Procedural Reforms: the work of the GCR Committee, the Criminal Justice Reform Committee (CJRC), the FSD Users Committee and other practice reforms (following on the report of Criminal Justice Advisor, Claire Wetton of the Crown Prosecution Service UK, International Division).

“The important work of the Committees established for the reform of rules and practice continued apace last year.
“The GCR Committee promulgated new rules under the Coroner’s Law for the management of inquests; under the Registered Land Law to regulate mortgage enforcement actions; under the Grand Court (Amendment) Law 2014 to allow for injunctive orders to be made in aid of foreign proceedings; under the Children Law for prohibited steps orders; under the Judicature Law for interim awards of costs other members of the Committee also advised me on the issuance of a number of practice directions.

“Only last Friday this Committee settled the rules for the reference of Family Court proceedings to Mediation, a practice which has been adopted by the courts in the UK and elsewhere, including in some Caribbean jurisdictions, with remarkable success.”

Well said Chief Justice.

I wonder if governments have ever heard of the saying “A stitch in time saves nine”?

If they have they have ignored it.

Why spend millions of dollars on policing, locking people up, providing legal aid to young offenders when if you nip it in the bud in the first or second place there is no need to provide EIGHT! ONE is enough.

ONE remand facility for youth offenders!

Wouldn’t that be money well spent?

It makes sense to my tired old brain..

It is top priority to me….

But not to the people that matter most – the ones that make the decision – GOVERNMENTS!!!

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