MINDFUL that TT’s criminals include minors under the age of 18, the Police Service has been mandated to provide minors-specific holding centres at all police stations to prevent juvenile suspects from being detained with adult criminals/suspects.
At present, the only cells designated for minors are at the Maracas St Joseph Police Station in Northern Division and the Oropouche Police Station in South-Western Division. The cells, referred to as detention suites are to be built at stations within all nine police divisions in the country.
According to senior police sources, the juvenile detention suite at Maracas St Joseph station caters for children 18 years and under, who are brought in for committing an offence or on suspicion of committing an offence and who must be kept at the station to be interviewed, have statements recorded and/or charged.
At the Maracas St Joseph station, there are three cells, one to house a female offender and the other two, for males. The suite has a sleeping area, blankets and washroom facilities.
Police sources said because there are only two detention suites in the country there has been a request for more juvenile detention suites to be constructed, but because of cash flow problems, the request was never considered.
However, with the opening of the Children’s Court at Alexander Street in St Clair, the Police Service has been given an ultimatum to fast track construction of juvenile-specific detention suites. Officers said that in some instances when there is no space available, male juvenile suspects are kept by the Children’s Authority or the St Jude’s Home for Girls and the St Michael Home for Boys.
Under the Children Act, when a person under the age of 18 is taken into custody there must be certain procedural safeguards in place to ensure the rights and guarantees afforded to minors are protected.
Failure to provide these booking/holding centres for minors not only breaches domestic law but also amounts to a breach of Trinidad and Tobago’s international obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Sources revealed yesterday that construction of a minors-specific centre was supposed to begin at the Maraval police station last year, but checks by Newsday revealed no construction has commenced.
Another was supposed to be constructed at Belmont Police station, but like Maraval, this never materialised.
Efforts to reach Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams for a comment on this issue were unsuccessful. as calls to his cellphone went unanswered.