House passes Children’s Bill
By Lara Pickford-Gordon Saturday, June 16 2012
Amendments to the Children’s Bill 2012 were passed in the House of Representatives yesterday with all Members of Parliament present giving support although the Opposition criticised various clauses. In the absence of Leader of the Opposition Dr Keith Rowley, who is out of the country, Member of Parliament for Diego Martin North/East, Colm Imbert was the main speaker for the Opposition benches. He accused Government of “watering down” the original bill which members had agreed to and not consulted on the changes.
Several changes passed in the Senate on May 25 were brought before the House for assent. Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development Verna St Rose-Greaves tabled the amendments and each one was read aloud by parliament staff.
Imbert disagreed with St Rose-Greaves that consultation took place on what was presented in the House yesterday. “Why is this Government watering down good legislation that we spent so much time in this Parliament in the House of Representatives to put good law on the books,” Imbert said.
He cited the removal of the “concept of suffocation” from clause 4 which was agreed to in the Bill. The clause previously stated that an adult committed the offence of cruelty to a child where the adult is sleeping in the same bed with the child and the child is found to have died by suffocation and where disease or any medical cause is proven. Imbert said persons could be accused of cruelty even in cases where a child dies of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
St Rose-Greaves said the particular clause was to establish a causal connection between an adult being under the influence of drugs, dangerous drugs or other substances having a “similar effect on the death of the child.” She said SIDS was considered and the clause sought to capture all the things that could happen. Imbert also referred to Clause 42–inciting or facilitating child pornography, 42 (1) states a person who intentionally causes, incites, controls, arranges or facilitates a child’s involvement in pornography in Trinidad and Tobago is liable on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for twenty years.”
“What does intention have to do with that, you are encouraging the person to get involved in pornography, you must know what you are doing. Why you have to put in the law now the prosecution has to prove the person knew and the person intended?”
Imbert criticised changes in other clauses but St Rose-Greaves assured that there was no intention to “water down” the legislation but to strengthen the law.
“All the changes we have put here have been toward getting better legislation. We sought to balance the rights of the victim and rights of the accused and that is important in every jurisdiction.”
Speaking to media after the Bill was passed , St Rose-Greaves was happy the Children Bill had reached the House. It has to be proclaimed and much work still had to be done. She said if there were any loopholes found, they would be “plugged.”
“I can’t spend too much of my energy anymore quarrelling and fighting. There is work to be done. Sometimes we have to put down the weapons of war and do the work.”