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First child friendly court opens its doors

The first child friendly Family court in Belize was opened earlier today in Punta Gorda. The new building was designed to be suitable for children and includes child-friendly play rooms as well as interview rooms with video link equipment. With the use of this technology those working in the court will be able to ensure that children are protected from being exposed to their alleged attackers and the technology will make it less traumatizing for children to testify. The child will be allowed to stay in a separate room while questioned, and will be supported by a social worker who will help him or her understand and respond to questions posed by the magistrate, defence lawyer and prosecutor. The opening of the court was inspired by various study tours where members of the Belize Supreme Court and the Government of Belize saw child justice reform in action. UNICEF Belize Representative, Ivan Yerovi said while the inauguration marks an important advancement in the child justice reform in Belize, they want to emphasise that it is part of an ongoing progress that not only will serve to protect children within the legal system, but also contribute towards reducing the level of impunity in crimes committed against children all over the country. The UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Bernt Aasen, travelled to Belize to participate in the opening of the court. Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin said today marks the day when the spirit of the Family Court legislation is given new significance. For the first time, Family Court matters will be dealt with outside of Belize City. It is intended that the facility will offer the services required to respond to and respect the needs of children.