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CJ: Kids caught up in abetting violence (with CNC3 video)
The country remains in the grip of a cycle of almost unprecedented violence and not only are children in every instance victims of that violence, either directly or indirectly, but there are instances in which they are caught up also, directly or indirectly, in aiding and abetting such violence, Chief Justice Ivor Archie said yesterday. He was speaking at the Violence Against Children Conference at the Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain.
T&T’s first Prime Minister, Dr Eric Williams, also did not “remotely envision” such a state of affairs when he told the country’s children on the first day of Independence that the future of the nation lay in their schoolbags, Archie said. “I am sure he never countenanced book bags as anything else but that, surely not receptacles for knives, for guns and other weapons,” he added.
Saying any form of violence can only undermine a society’s development, he urged citizens to act before violence began as many successful initiatives already showed that much violence was absolutely preventable. He added: “I am not at all consoled by the fact that violence is present in every country because we often tend to use that sort of observation as an excuse for inaction.
“I am also disturbed by the sometimes pointed references to culture, ethnic origin and even age when we seek to define “hot spots” of violence in our country. “Moreover, we continue to be reactionary, seeming to wait to see violence occurring before another plan is put in place.” He said society was familiar with the more “egregious individual examples of physical and sexual violence” but was sometimes oblivious to the fact that collectively “we are a violent society.”
He said the judiciary was doing its part by instituting the Family Court and the Drug Treatment Court. He added: “Customers approach the courts seeking some notion of ‘justice’.
“However, where that customer is the minor, justice necessarily includes protecting child victims of abuse from being victimised further by the distress of criminal proceedings and child offenders against overly retributive sentencing with very little restorative and rehabilitative elements.”
Judges and magistrates, he added, must also be retooled with skills for the successful conduct of child examination and should not use leading tag questions, such as, “you didn’t like it when he touched you, did you?”, as those were likely to confuse a young child. Further, he said, children should not be openly accused of lying as that could upset a young witness and would likely impair his ability to give sound testimony. He added: “Even while the courts are learning to treat with the child witness, there is the issue of the best approaches to be adopted when the accused is in fact the child.
“Child perpetrators are arguably the end result of some dysfunction or failure in the social and family system...what is done to children, they will do to society.”
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