|Judge to Ramlogan, ‘Was it you?’ |
By AZARD ALI Thursday, October 1 2015
JUST why was the Children’s Act proclaimed when foster homes and community residences were yet to be set up to house young persons awaiting trial for criminal offences ? This was the question asked by High Court Judge Justice Frank Seepersad of former Attorney General Anand Ramlogan SC yesterday at the San Fernando High Court.
“Was it during your tenure Mr Ramlogan?” Seepersad asked. But the former Attorney General answered that even if it was, it was Parliament that passed the Act.
The ineffectiveness of the Act to operate is under challenge by the former Attorney General who, in yet another Judical Review lawsuit to have the State free two young boys from the Youth Training Centre (YTC), is asking the State to pay monetary compensation for the period of time the boys spend at YTC.
The boys, on August 14, were remanded by Deputy Chief Magistrate Mark Wellington, to YTC to await trial for two counts of assault with intent to rob. One of the boys is charged with possession of a firearm and possession of ammunition. Ramlogan had only, last month, argued a similar lawsuit on behalf of a 14-year-old boy incarcerated at YTC for murder, in which Justice Vasheist Kokaram, on August 20 in the Hall of Justice, ordered the newly-formed Children’s Authority to take the boy out of YTC, but find a suitable place while he awaits trial.
The law requires that persons below the age of 17 who, only upon conviction of a criminal offence, are to be sent to YTC.
During hearing of the lawsuit yesterday on behalf of the two minors by Ramlogan and attorneys Gerald Ramdeen and Kent Samlal, the issue arose again as to the suitability of YTC for children awaiting trial for criminal offences and the failure of the State under the Children’s Authority, to set up licensed Community Residences.
The Children’s Act 2012 and the Children Community Residences, Foster Homes and Nurseries Act of 2000, were passed in Parliament to give effect to setting up of the residences.
Ramlogan submitted that since there were no such homes established, then the State cannot deprive the two children their constitutional right to bail, except of course, in the case of a minor charged with murder.
But Seepersad, questioned the purpose of facilitating the proclamation of the Children’s Act when the provisions which the Act proposes were yet to come to fruition, such as establishing the licensed community residences.
The judge asked Ramlogan to explain, if during his tenure as the Attorney General, the wisdom in facilitating proclamation of the specific section of the Act that established the Children’s Authority, and by extension, the residences.
Seepersad commented that society needs to ask, how was the Children’s Act proclaimed when none of the pre-requisites for implementation have been put in place. The judge granted Ramlogan leave to apply for judicial review of the magistrate’s decision to commit the teenagers to YTC.