The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has decried what it said is the limited political will in the British Virgin Islands to implement a legal requirement for the establishment of a youth custody and training centre for juveniles convicted of crimes.
It lamented that, contrary to the territory’s Criminal Justice (Alternative Sentencing) Act 2005, juveniles who run afoul of the law are still being housed in a section of Her Majesty’s Prison.
Adult prisoners are also housed in another section of the said prison, UNICEF noted in its report, which was tabled recently in the House of Assembly.
The international organization explains: “Section 12 of the Act states that where a child or young person is found guilty of an offence that is punishable with a sentence of imprisonment, the court may instead order him to be detained in a youth custody and training centre for a term not exceeding five years. There is no clear difference between the prison and the youth custody and training centres – both are places of detention. The difference may be that one is a specialized centre only for children and young people rather than the current prison where they all are in the same place – physically separated in the same building.”
“In any case, all these differences are purely theoretical as there has been limited political will to implement the Act, with none of the centres and institutions that it (the Act) provides for having so far been created,” UNICEF further said in the recently tabled report – Current State of Legislation in the Eastern Caribbean and British Overseas Territories.
According to the report, the unavailability of the youth custody and training centre is practically ‘limiting’ the options available when sentencing juveniles.
The organization therefore called on the government to ‘establish separate facilities for children deprived of their liberty”. Those facilities, UNICEF added, should have “distinct, specialized staff, personnel, policies, and practices”.
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