A local magistrate has expressed concern that Barbados??? juvenile system appears to be mimicking the adult criminal system.

This was disclosed today by Magistrate Barbara Cooke-Alleyne, who noted that the majority of cases for drug possession before the Juvenile Court involved boys, who also accounted for 66.2 per cent of assaults.

She was at the time speaking during a workshop entitled In The Winners??? Circle ??? Making the Right Choice hosted by the National Task Force on Crime Prevention at New Dimension Ministries.

???We are quite concerned about the boys being charged with possession of drugs. We are seeing boys aged 13 to 15, and usually when they come before the court we put them on probation to give them a chance and an opportunity to change their lives and [use] incarceration as a last resort,??? the Magistrate explained.

Magistrate Cooke-Alleyne said she believed such problems existed in every school across the island and were a reflection of what was going on in the wider society.

She further noted that offences such as theft, wounding and burglary were conducted primarily by boys, while girls were usually brought to court for offences such as wandering, accounting for over 70 per cent of such cases.

???Wandering has always been a problem. For some of them it is an excuse to do many things, but for others it is because they have no choice; they are running from home because something has happened at home. For others it is association with an older guy or female to enter relationships such as lesbianism,??? she declared.

However, the judicial officer pointed out that girls also faced charges of theft of cell phones and money, while boys added theft of brand name gear to the mix.??But, she told the students that they needed to change the statistics and turn the situation around by making wise decisions when they entered secondary school.

Magistrate Cooke-Alleyne also supported the call for students to enroll in service clubs to build their self-esteem and make positive choices. ???Most of those who come before me are not in clubs and have a very low self-esteem,??? she stated.

She warned the students that at the age of 11, they were now able to understand right from wrong. She noted that it was also known as the age of criminal responsibility and juvenile offenders could face criminal charges.


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