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Minister of Human Development Tables Bill for a Reform of Juvenile Offenders

Minister of Human Development Dolores Balderamos Garcia on Tuesday introduced three important bills to the House of Representatives. The Certified Institutions (Children’s Reformation) Bill was repealed. The Juvenile Offenders (Amendment) Bill was tabled; this Bill seeks to repeal the provisions that relate to status offences. The Families and Children (Amendment) Bill seeks to substitute the term “approved children home” with the term “residential care facility in order to ensure consistency with its use in those laws that refer to residential care facilities. Balderamos Garcia says these legislations were drafted years ago and it is high time that they become law.

Dolores Balderamos Garcia, Minister of Human Development: “The Certified Institutions Act Mr.Speaker is something like eighty odd years old. It is antiquated and it does not good especially where it comes to children in need of protective care especially at the youth hostel. So Mr.Speaker we are asking for the full repeal of that Certified Institutions Act and for institutions such as the hostel to be residential care facilities. We are now moving to a rights based approach to protecting our children. We will no longer be calling them names and having them have what you call the status offences such as curfew violation, uncontrollable behavior and truancy and that kind of thing and so Mr.Speaker what we are seeking is to have the residential care facility with the rights based approach and also to do the consequential amendments to the Juvenile Offenders Act and the Families and Children Act. So wherever you will see certified institution we will change that to residential care facility but also Mr.Speaker we are making sure that the age of criminal responsibility across the board in our legislation is twelve and not ten as in some of the old legislation. And of course we are removing again the very antiquated provisions in the Juvenile Offenders Act that talk about living with a prostitute or living off of the proceeds of prostitution and that kind of thing. We have long gone away from that era Mr.Speaker and now we see that we must have the level of care for all our Belizean children and no longer would a magistrate be able to just on the representation of a parent say well this child has uncontrollable behavior send him to hostel until he’s eighteen. No longer Mr.Speaker. The Community Rehabilitation Department will have a greater oversight to work with parents and families to help to rehabilitate children and just by the way Mr.Speaker only about 15% of the children in the hostel are there for some kind of offence like stealing. It’s mostly the lack of care if I could put it that way that led to them being dubbed as uncontrollable behavior.”