Over 600 children were in conflict with the law over the past 3 years

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The Supreme Court of Judicature of Guyana in collaboration with UNICEF and other official agencies, today launched the country’s first ‘Juvenile Drug Treatment Court’ at several courts throughout the nation with the aim of tackling drug/substance abuse/use among juveniles.

During the official opening ceremony, Chancellor of the Judiciary Justice Yonette Cummings shared statistics which indicated that a large number juveniles over the last three years, have been in conflict with the law.

It was revealed that from 2019 to 2021, a total of 625 cases of juveniles in conflict with the law were recorded.

“Over the years from 2019, if we look at the summary offences, we have 138 males and 59 females engaged in matters of a summary nature. On the indictable side, we have 83 males and 63 females, a total of 343 cases. In 2020, we had 26 males and eight females for indictable offences and for the summary matters, 82 males and 50 females, a total of 166 cases,” she disclosed.

“And in 2021, 21 males, one female, but still one too much, in indictable matters. In summary matters, 51 males and 43 females, a total of 116 cases,” the Chancellor added.

Regarding the statistics for this year, she explained that “we have not bothered to look at the statistics for this year” due to the opening of these specialised courts.

“This, in itself, would provide a guide to where and what we need to do as a court, as a community, to deal with this issue of drug abuse or drug use in our young people,” Cummings expressed.

According to her, when a child comes into conflict with the law, early identification, screening and treatment of the underlying issues that cause the offending conflict are important.

She said it provides an opportunity to treat the issue.

“The Juvenile Drug Treatment Court is providing co-ordinated services with the aim of addressing substance use disorders and offending behaviour in our young people…We recognise that a compelled disciplinary approach is essential if we are to tackle the issue of substance use in our children,” she said.

Moreover, she highlighted that there will be no human rights breach as participation is voluntary and participants will be given a chance to be heard and express their views.

Meanwhile, Director of the Childcare and Protection Agency, Ann Greene lamented that it is quite evident that a lot young Guyanese engage in “risky behaviours”.

“For young people who are behaving in risky behaviours, it has been proven that they have factors in their lives that lead to them to engage in behaviours that are not only harmful to themselvesm but to society in general,” she explained.

Greene stated that young persons can be influenced by their relationship with their parents, schools, peer and community.

“It is said that there is a treatment gap in our society, in that, among those who need treatment for substance disorder, few receive it and in the opinions of many, this gap is massive.

“Drug abuse is learnt behaviour so, for the adolescent and juveniles, opportunity must be given for them to unlearn the behaviour and for second chances,” Greene posited, hailing the opening of the court as an “investment in youth, the wealth of the nation, our future leaders.”

The courts be situated in Georgetown, New Amsterdam, Whim, Fort Wellington, Linden, Leonora, Wales, Vreed-en-Hoop, Suddie, Charity, Sparendaam and Vigilance.

The mission of the initiative is to reduce crime and substance use among adolescents through therapeutic interventions and judicial supervision.

These will also include youths who are charged with minor or nonviolent criminal offenses and may have serious drug abuse disorders.

The courts will offer treatment for this kind of disorder. However, in order to benefit from the assistance, the juvenile must plead guilty to the offense committed.