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Minor sues State over ‘adult jail’
A 14-year-old boy from Diego Martin, on remand for the murder of a 54-year-old man last year, is suing the State to be removed immediately from the Youth Training Centre (YTC), Arouca.
In his judicial review lawsuit filed in the Port-of-Spain High Court on Monday, the teenager, who can not be named as he is considered a minor in law, is claiming he was unlawfully remanded to the facility after he was charged alongside three older teens, including his 16-year-old sister, for the murder of Dulraj Goyan Deodath last year.
The teenager is relying on several pieces of recent legislation regulating the court’s handling of minors charged with serious crimes, including the Children Act, the Young Offenders Detention Act and the Children Community Residences, Foster Care and Nurseries Act.
According to his court documents, which were obtained by the T&T Guardian, the teen is contending that by the cumulative effect of the legislation the court is only empowered to send minors between the ages of 16 and 18 to the facility, with judicial officers being required to assign those out of the age group to non-penal facilities or “community residences”.
However, because the Children’s Authority, the independent agency set up to enforce the provisions of the pieces of legislation is yet to approve any community residences in T&T for use by the courts, the teen’s legal team is calling for his release from the facility.
Although he is not entitled to bail as he is charged with a capital offence, the lawyers are claiming he should not continue to be subjected to unlawful and unconstitutional detention at YTC because the State has failed to facilitate the implementation of all the provisions of the legislation.
Whatever the outcome of the lawsuit, which comes up for an emergency hearing this morning, the teen’s legal challenge will be considered a landmark case as it is the first time someone has sought to challenge the makeshift procedure currently being used by judicial officers in lieu of the procedure outlined in the legislation.
“These provisions showed that a different policy was to be adopted in relation to child or young offenders from that adopted towards adults. Protections and welfare of the child lie at the heart of these provisions.
“The aim of the legislation is that the welfare of the child must be paramount throughout the detention of a child,” the teenager’s statement of case said.
According to his mother, a witness in the case to support her son’s claim, the teenager is allegedly being physically abused by older residents at the facility who rob him of his food and toiletries.
“He is very small and he is one of the youngest persons at YTC. From what he tells me most of the other boys are bigger than him and they constantly take advantage of him,” the woman said in her witness statement, as she also revealed that her requests for protection for her son have been repeatedly dismissed by prisons officers.
As she claimed that she is seriously concerned for her son’s wellbeing, the woman stated: “I am always afraid that one day I would get a call that my child is seriously injured or even dead.”
The teenager is jointly charged with 19-year-old Stefan Frederick, his 17-year-old sister and their 17-year-old friend with beating Deodath to death with a hammer at his Sea Trace, Bagatelle, Diego Martin, between January 16 to 19 last year.
The teens, all from Diego Martin, are also accused of robbing Deodath of his $150,000 Toyota Dyna truck and a leaf blower valued at $2,000. The teenager and the 17-year-old were both remanded to YTC and his sister to the Women’s Prison in Arouca, while Frederick remains in remand at the Port-of-Spain State Prison.
The teenager is being represented by former attorney general Anand Ramlogan, SC, Gerald Ramdeen, Kent Samlal, Varun Debideen and Delicia Helwig.
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