The Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court has underscored the importance of the Criminal Mediation Programme that will provide “diversionary measures for children and the youth” who have run afoul of the law.
Addressing the opening of the Law Year 2023 on Tuesday, Dame Janice Periera said the implementation of the programme will introduce a framework for mediation in appropriate criminal matters that are summary in nature.
Dame Janice noted that the intention, in part, is to positively impact youth justice throughout the region and offer alternatives to jail time.
“These measures are now needed in our societies more urgently than ever before as we continue to see an increase in young persons finding themselves before our courts for minor offences and even more serious ones in many cases, running the risk of completely derailing their future prospects if convicted.
“It is hoped and expected that the Criminal Mediation Programme will foster greater utilisation of restorative justice practices in our member states and territories as in many cases,” the chief justice said in her address.
Dame Janice conceded that over time, the current system has proven to be damaging to young people, but she added that focus must be placed on repairing the damage that has been done.
“A regime of punishment is not always the answer; rather, a restoration of broken young lives ensures a more positive and lasting benefit to society. It goes a long way towards creating a more just society.”
The chief justice predicts that there will be a decline in the number of youth offenders once the programme is implemented and she has called on governments to support the initiative through financial and other resources.
“The overall gains to be derived from that system far outweigh the financial capital input. I think of it more as a capital reallocation,” Dame Janice said.