Press conference on the Government Industrial School – March 20, 2021. (PMO)

Effective immediately, wards of the Government Industrial School (GIS) can no longer be detained in isolation under circumstances less than acceptable.

And, Cabinet will be called upon to consider new child protection legislation and a new Child Justice Bill from as early as next Thursday.

Minister of Home Affairs, Information and Public Affairs, Wilfred Abrahams, made these disclosures during a press conference to address matters pertaining to the GIS this afternoon.

“Up to Friday, the day before the story broke, we were in a long meeting with UNICEF, the Child Care Board, the Superintendent of Prisons and Faith Marshall-Harris, and we were trying to settle the policies to inform the new child protection legislation.  We have been working with UNICEF and we [also] have a new Child Justice Bill,” he said.

Noting the policies were settled last Friday, Mr. Abrahams said Government was also working with UNICEF to “fast track” the drafting of the legislation.

“We are not reacting. A lot was already in train. Had the incident not occurred, we would have seen a transformation in short order to how we deal with children before entering the judicial system and after,” he said, making reference to an incident involving a 14-year-old girl at the female unit at Barrows, St. Lucy, last week.

Mr. Abrahams stated that the incident occurred and a child was traumatised and Government was taking immediate steps to manage the situation and prevent a recurrence, while it worked on the legislation.

Noting that the progress of the work was slowed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Abrahams explained that the Child Justice Bill was just as important as the child protection legislation.

“The child protection legislation deals with all aspects of children. It deals with children in households; it deals with what age you can leave a child unattended; it deals with what constitutes abuse; it deals with the age of criminal responsibility; it is the whole thing….  It will be the most progressive piece of legislation once it has passed,” the Minister stated.

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