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Task Force: Police unit for child abuse

Friday, March 28 2014

The Child Protection Task Force has reported that almost half of the 97 staff members on the Children’s Authority’s start-up establishment are in place and have begun working while undergoing training, according to its chairman Diana Mahabir-Wyatt.

The Task Force has also reached an agreement with the Ministry of National Security to set up a special unit in the Police Service to deal with child protection and family violence, Mahabir-Wyatt told Newsday in a brief interview after the Prime Minister’s Tea Party at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s on Wednesday on the occasion of International Women’s Day.

“We never had a special police unit to treat with child abuse and family violence before,” she said noting that “it was a traumatic experience for mothers and children going to the police station for reports and interviews.”

National Security Minister Gary Griffith she said has been cooperative on the issue.

The authority has also proposed to Government the establishment of Children’s Ombudsman as part of the child protection structure,

“We are working on the concept of a children’s ombudsman, which will be an important addition to the whole child protection structure. We have never had a real structure for child protection,” she said.

Mahabir-Wyatt handed over the second report of the Task Force to Prime Minister Kamla Persad- Bissessar during the Women’s Day function.

Declaring she was “so happy” to report that the children’s authority is going ahead, Mahabir- Wyatt said, “Just about half of the staff is in place having been drafted in between February and March.”

At present they are undergoing orientation, while already responding to calls.

Noting the authority’s assessment centre will be in place at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope by June, she said, “I don’t know if you realise that everyday for the last few weeks a little girl — from two, four, six, eight years — has been raped.”

By September, she said, “everything will be in full operation, so that people can call the Children’s Authority if a child is being abused, or, is at risk of being abused.”

Though staff members are still being recruited the authority has begun to function which, she said “is amazing because to get an organisation of such nature up and going within two months is mind-boggling.”

The Children’s Authority, she said, will be complemented by the Ministry of Justice for a youth justice system that will enable the rehabilitation of young people who are generally thrown into jail when they run afoul of the law.

At present, she noted that girls under 18 years are put into the women’s prison which is against the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

She will never forget, she said, when an 11-year-old girl was declared an adult by a magistrate and sent to the women’s prison on account of her behaviour. The police told her that the girl had been raped when she was three years and abused every since, and nobody had listened to her.

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