Police officers in Dominica are now better prepared to redirect Juvenile Offenders

As Dominica progresses towards the enactment of a Child Justice Bill, 31 police officers participated in a workshop recently to enhance their knowledge of Juvenile Justice Reform. The workshop emphasized diversion provisions within the draft Bill. Diversion creates an opportunity for justice officials to work with children in conflict with the law, their families, community members, victims and other stakeholders to holistically address issues of youth delinquency apart from formal court processes. Diversion is one of the “pillars” of the new legislation, and pre-charge diversion falls squarely within the mandate of law enforcement officers.

Technical Consultant for the Juvenile Justice Reform Project (JJRP II), Jacqueline Sealy-Burke led these sessions, focusing on both pre, and post-charge diversion. The workshop provided an overview of the juvenile justice system and the concept of diversion as a critical element of effective Child Justice Reform. The training is in keeping with Dominica’s broader effort to prioritize sensitization and training of stakeholders involved in the execution of the various components of the new Child Justice legislation. It also builds on Dominica’s development of a country-specific Diversion Policy, in collaboration with JJRP II, to guide the police and judiciary in the optimal treatment of children in conflict with the law.

The Juvenile Justice Reform Project (JJRP) Phase II is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and is being implemented by the OECS Commission.

Consultant in the Ministry of Youth Development and Empowerment, Martin Anthony was pleased with the outcome of the workshop, commenting,

“The officers were given insight into the various duties assigned to police officers as proposed under the Bill for enforcement when it becomes law. Coming out of this workshop, the intention is to form a working group from within the police department to extend and continue the discussion and to formalize a plan for pre-charge diversion, based on Dominica’s Diversion Policy. The ongoing sensitization of stakeholders is critical as Dominica advances towards enactment of this important Bill.”

Assistant Superintendent of the Commonwealth of Dominica Police Force, Claude Weekes, who participated in the sessions said,

“The programme went very well. We are pleased that such a wide cross-section of police officers attended including female officers, who in many situations, deal regularly with youth offenders. There is always the interest from the police officers to better understand how to deal with juveniles in conflict with the law, and to get a deeper perspective on diversion and more specifically, pre-charge diversion. This is a very important and ongoing matter which all of our police will be regularly sensitized about, as we play our role in dealing with children in conflict with the law.”

Late in 2020, some of Dominica’s judiciary participated in a workshop on the details of the draft Child Justice Bill. Among other components, the workshop highlighted the judiciary’s role in the Bill’s eventual enactment.

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