GNCRC: Family Court long overdue

[L-R] Nickeisha Haywood (CPA), Carlene Pezar (GNCRC), Jeannine Sylvester Gill (Chair GNCRC), Ann Greaves (Chair, Child Protection Awareness and Prevention Month Committee)

by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada

  • GNCRC calls for adoption of model guidelines for sexual offence cases in Grenada’s court system
  • JURIST Project provided guidelines dealing with sexual offence cases in court.

The Grenada National Coalition on the Rights of the Child (GNCRC) has joined the call for the adoption of model guidelines for sexual offence cases in Grenada’s court system, echoing sentiments expressed last month by attorney at law Jerry Edwin.

GNCRC Chairman Jeannine Sylvester Gill said the organisation has been clamouring for the establishment of a family court that will take into consideration sensitive cases involving victims of sexual abuse, especially those involving minors.

“I have witnessed some cross-examination for children where lawyers actually say to the child “a putting to you that what you said is not true” and try to intimidate the child into changing their story. That’s why we need a family court system placed here so that the child doesn’t have to be victimised by the court system.”

Sylvester Gill said despite past action taken to address the issue of a child cross-examined in court, there is more that can be done. “We have had the police prosecution dress down, so they don’t appear intimidating to children, but it has to be something that is legislative, and until that is done then we won’t be able to move forward.”

Nickeisha Haywood, Unit Supervisor of the Child Protection Authority, says this is a serious issue that must not be overlooked. “What we see sometimes is that lawyers will ask social workers representing the child to exit the court so that support that the child would have had is sometimes taken away and [that] is a serious cause for concern.”

The Canada-funded Judicial Reform and Institutional Strengthening (JURIST) Project, provided Grenada’s judicial system with guidelines regarding dealing with sexual offence cases in court. Some of these recommendations and procedures that must be followed include:

  1. The rights of all complainants and defendants will be protected and all service delivery will respect their rights and dignity.
  2. All court services should be provided in a non-judgmental way that facilitates the empowerment of complainants.
  3. Specialised training is an essential part of ensuring the best evidence is collected from complainants.
  4. Service delivery must not re-victimise the complainant or traumatise witnesses.
  5. Vulnerable complainants or witnesses will receive specialised support services.
  6. Service delivery will recognise that due to the traumatic and disruptive nature of sexual assaults, support services will be needed for complainants and this may require multi-disciplinary collaboration with other agencies.
  7. Confidentiality and privacy of complainants will be respected and protected.

Before the 2018 General Elections, Delma Thomas Minister for Social Development reiterated government’s commitment to addressing issues surrounding child sexual abuse including the establishment of a sex offender’s registry.

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