Outspoken Attorney-at-Law Anselm Clouden has once again called for judicial reform within the local magistracy.
His latest call came after Magistrate Karen Noel, who presides over the St. David’s Magistrate Court, remanded two juvenile offenders to the Richmond Hill Prison.
The seasoned attorney was retained to assist the teenagers who are both under the age of 17 and were incarcerated at the Grenville Police Station, St. Andrew and were expected to appear before the Grenville Magistrate’s Court on summary charges of house breaking and stealing.
Magistrate Nevlyn John, who presides over the Eastern Division of St. Andrew, was unavoidably absent and the young offenders were sent to the St. David’s Magistrate’s Court.
Speaking to reporters on the issue, Clouden said the Prosecution did not object to his bail application but Magistrate Noel took what he described as “a very insensitive position” to remand the juveniles to the Richmond Hill prison.
He felt at odds to differ with Magistrate Noel’s decision on the grounds that “juvenile justice is part of the family law of any civilised country (and that) they are inextricably bound.”
“She could have granted bail,” Clouden argued, expressing the view that Magistrate Noel could have released them into the custody of their parents.
He contended that “when you pick up young offenders, 14, 15 (years old) and the like, the first thing you (should) do before putting them through the rigorous and sometimes inhumane criminal system, is that you get to the parents and to a family court judge to sort things out, put them into the custody of the family court, into a juvenile detention centre, but not to a prison.”
He said it is for this reason he is “calling on the judiciary, magistracy, government to introduce certain reforms with respect of juvenile justice”.
“We need to reform our justice system at the Magisterial level…they must come under some oversight authority and there must be harmonisation of legislation that will commit all magistrates to impose alternative penalties to juveniles other than Richmond Hill,” he added.
The attorney-at-law also expressed the view that “unless we deal with our juveniles differently we would have a society that breeds criminal activity by young people.”
He called on Attorney General, Cajeton Hood and President of the Grenada Bar Association (GBA), Ruggles Ferguson, as senior members of the Bar “to ensure that some mechanism is put in place that these Magistrates who from time to time incarcerate our juveniles, must be made to respond in a human manner and a juvenile detention centre and a facility is to be provided as an alternative.”
Clouden suggested that the time has come for the appropriate legislation to be passed in Parliament to ensure that magistrates keep juveniles away from Richmond Hill prison (by) sending them to a half way house or a juvenile detention centre, “where they can attend school and have the best provided for them and their families…”.
He said punishment for young offenders “ought not to be incarceration at Her Majesty’s Prison”.
He suggested that Magistrates who continue to send juveniles to prison under those circumstances like the current case would force these young offenders to return to society with a stigma.
“Their friends (would) call them jail birds, and they would have difficulty at school, the teachers (would) pay less attention to them and the problem (would) perpetuate itself and continue”, he said.
Clouden recalled that Commissioner of Prisons, Ashley ‘Ram’ Folkes stated in a recent interview that “when juveniles (are sent) in to us (at the prison) for a week or two, we can’t do anything with them (because) there is no opportunity for rehabilitation.”
Clouden, “pre-trial incarceration (is) punishment without the case being tried” and when these young offenders are sent to prison, they soon pick up the skills of the senior and more advanced and committed criminals.
He also took the opportunity to commend Chief Magistrate, Tamara Gill who he said, “has shown some measure of understanding, judicial restraint with respect to the manner in which she treats juveniles.”
“I must compliment her in that regard,” Clouden said.