Over 600 children in conflict with the law over past 3 years
Within the last three years, over 600 children have been in conflict with the law. This trend has prompted the launch of the country’s first Juvenile Drug Treatment Court, a facility aimed at rehabilitating young drug abusers for their reintegration into society.
On Tuesday, the Judiciary of Guyana launched 12 courts to deal specifically with juveniles who are substance abusers.
These courts are located in Georgetown, New Amsterdam, Whim, Fort Wellington, Linden, Lenora, Wales, Vreed-en-Hoop, Suddie, Charity, Sparendaam, and Vigilance.
The mission of the initiative is to reduce crime and substance use among adolescents through therapeutic interventions and judicial supervision.
These will also include youths who are charged with minor or nonviolent criminal offences and may have serious drug abuse disorders.
The courts will offer treatment for this kind of disorder. However, in order to benefit from the assistance, the juvenile must plead guilty to the offence committed.
The offender must also be assessed and produce a drug test taken under controlled conditions within 24 hours of applying to the court.
Chancellor of the Judiciary, Yonette Cummings-Edwards said since 2019, the number of young people that find themselves in drug use and committing offences of the law stands in the 600s.
This is with the exception of 2022.
“If we look at the summary of offences for 2019, we have 38 males, and 58 females engaged in matters of a summary nature. On the indictable side, we have 83 males and 63 females; a total of 343 cases. In 2020 we have 26 males and eight females for indictable offences. For the summary matters, 82 males and 50 females; a total of 166 cases.”
“2021 we had 21 males, one female involved in indictable matters; summary matter 51 males, and 43 females. A total of 116 cases,” she said.
She said the most important factor garnered from the statistics, is that the numbers seem to be dropping.
From 2020 to 2021, the cases dropped by 50. As such, Cummings-Edwards said she hopes that the judicial system continues to see a reduction in the number of cases, now with the implementation of the Drug Treatment Courts.
“Those summary matters, for which attention will be focused, and for which our Juvenile Drug Treatment Court would pay particular regard,” she said.
She mentioned that in the court there will be no human rights or administrative breach, and participation will be voluntary. In the courts, young people will be given an opportunity to express their views on their behaviour and will be given help when necessary.
The court will operate in unison with several agencies, including the Child Care and Protection Agency, the Ministries of Education and Health, the Police Force, and the Salvation Army.
The treatment plan has four stages which will last for about 10 months or more. It will also be supervised by a team.
These include a State counsel, probation and social officers, drug abuse treatment providers, the case manager, representatives from the Ministries of Education and Health, and family members.
The idea to establish a Juvenile Drug Treatment Court was birthed in August 2020 by Chancellor of the Judiciary (ag) Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards, and it is with the hope that it will be a success.
This is the second drug treatment court that was launched in the last three years.
The first adult drug treatment court was launched on October 21, 2019, at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts. Two Magistrates: Senior Magistrate Clive Nurse and Magistrate Rhondel Weever preside over the court. From the inception of the programme to March 2022, 15 persons formally applied to participate. All of the applicants were males between the ages of 18-60 years old.
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the programme just as it was about to gain traction. Operations were suspended in March 2020, but shortly thereafter recommenced utilising virtual hearings.