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Report: Children abusing children

By ANDRE BAGOO Friday, January 17 2014

CHAIRMAN of the Child Protection Task Force Diana Mahabir-Wyatt yesterday said another major concern of the committee during its deliberations was the trend of children perpetuating abuse on other children. She called for closer monitoring of children’s homes.

“Children’s homes are not being properly monitored,” she said. “Children abuse children. We all know things like this are happening in theses homes. That is what really needs monitoring.”

She further said the situation as it pertains to children in general has reached “crisis” proportion.

“I think we are in a crisis: it is absolutely an emergency and that is why we are working as hard as we are,” she said.

Mahabir-Wyatt was speaking with reporters following a formal hand-over ceremony at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair. The 14 members of the committee handed over their first report to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. Further reports of the committee are due, with the chairman indicating that such reports may be submitted every three months. A draft of the first report had been delivered before Christmas.

Mahabir-Wyatt also stated another area of ongoing and urgent consideration would be the question of statistics.

In a prepared address, Persad-Bissessar issued a call to members of the Task Force to deliberate on the possibility of early proclamation of specific offences against children set out in the Children’s Act.

“We await your findings...as to whether those parts in the Act may be proclaimed,” she said.

However, questioned on this possibility, chairman of the Children’s Authority Stephanie Daly SC said such a move for partial proclamation poses risks.

“There are huge risks in trying to do that,” she said. She noted that the suite of legislation governing the issue of protecting children was designed to be taken as a whole, and even partially proclaimed sections would require repealing other statutes. The Bail (Amendment) Bill 2013, which proposes to deny bail initially to repeat child offenders, comes up for debate in the Senate next Tuesday.

Cabinet yesterday confirmed a note which approved the establishment of assessment centres, including one at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Centre; bolstering of the Children’s Authority staff and the licensing of community residences for children.

“Go forth and recruit!” Persad-Bissessar told members of the task force, including the chairman of the Authority. Daly said delays in having posts at the Authority filled were due largely to the high turnaround of independent offices responsible for the relevant approvals. She noted the Authority has submitted the relevant paper-work at the earliest opportunity. Mahabir-Wyatt lamented, “things just get stuck in bureaucracy”

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