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National Committee for Families and Children demands fair treatment for children

Posted: Friday, June 8, 2018. 4: 24 p.m. CST.

By BBN Staff: The National Committee for Families and Children (NCFC) today issued a statement condemning the recent report of a 13-year-old minor being criminally charged for alleged possession of a firearm in the absence of his parent(s), a Community Rehabilitation Officer or a Justice of the Peace, while being treated for a gunshot wound in a local hospital.

According to Section 2 of the Juvenile Offenders Act of Belize, a child is defined as a person under the age of fourteen years, as such, the minor in this report is a child.

Section 9, subsection 2 of the same Act further states that ‘Where a child or young person is arrested, the police officer by whom he is arrested or the officer in charge of the police station to which he is brought shall, if the parent or guardian lives within a reasonable distance and can be found, cause him to be warned to attend at the court before which the child or young person will be brought.’

Therefore, the above allegation is in direct contravention of this section of the law.

Furthermore, Belize was the fifth country globally to sign and ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

As a signatory to this Convention, the government commits to upholding all articles contained within it.

“We take this opportunity to remind the police department and the public that under the CRC, children who come in conflict with the law, have the right to legal help and fair treatment in the justice system (Article 40). Where a family cannot financially afford legal assistance, these services can be accessed from the Legal Aid and Services Centre,” the NCFC explains.

The NCFC calls on the justice system to ensure that this right of all children is adhered to.

The organization further calls on the police department to conduct an urgent and thorough investigation into this case, given the differing views of the family and police officers.

They also urge the social services departments to help treat any negative psychological effects that may be endured by this child and to also provide suitable rehabilitative support.

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