Attorney-at-law Leon Chaku Symister is calling on the minister of
justice to abide by the law and create a facility to accommodate
Speaking about a recent incident, Symister says that a 17-year-old
female offender was detained for seven days at His Majesty’s Prison
because she violated her curfew.
Apparently, the teenager had been taken before the Child Justice
Board for driving without a licence; and, as part of her punishment,
the adjudicators ordered that she should not be out of her house
after a particular time.
Having reportedly breached the order, the girl was taken back
before the Board, and then was sent to His Majesty’s Prison.
Now, Symister notes, the Child Justice Board was set up to divert
juveniles from the customary criminal-justice system, when
Yet, he says, the teenager spent seven days behind bars – and could
have stayed longer had it not been for the intervention of her
attorney, who filed a motion of habeas corpus in the High Court.
The attorney says the Child Justice Act contains scheduled offences,
which are serious matters that cannot be diverted and must go
before either the High Court or the Magistrates Court.
He points out that its sentencing provision requires that a child go to
prison if the Court is satisfied it is the only alternative.
Thus, even juveniles who are convicted in the High Court are not
sent to prison unless the circumstances are dire – such as in the case
of murder – and the Court determines that no other punishment
would act as a deterrent.
Therefore, Symister says, it is unfortunate that the teenager was
sent to prison – given that the authorities have failed to construct a
facility to house youth who run afoul of the law, as is prescribed in
He recounts another incident in which a 13-year-old was charged
for stealing over $6,000 worth of electronic items and was placed on
This teenager also violated the Order and was taken back before the
Board, which sent him to prison, also. However, the boy remained
there for a much longer time – more than six months, Symister
In contrast, the attorney referenced yet another case in which two
young men charged with rape were found guilty in the High Court
but not sent to prison.
Meanwhile, Symister says that an area at the old US Naval Base
where juveniles used to be housed is no longer in use.
Accordingly, he is calling on newly knighted Attorney-General
Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin to construct a residential facility to house
children who are in conflict with the law.