MOJ's Children in Court programme

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) along with CUSO-VSO and United Nations Children's Fund recently launched the first phase of the Children in Court - Court Prep programme.

The launch took place at the Mandeville Hotel, in Mandeville and had in training 48 volunteers from Westmoreland, St Elizabeth, Hanover, Trelawny, St James, Clarendon and Manchester.

The volunteers were trained in the first phase of the competency building exercise in six core modules by staff of the MOJ, Victim Support Unit (VSU) and volunteers from CUSO-VSO.

The content of the modules included basic counselling skills, grief management techniques, crime victim crisis management, counselling the sexually traumatised, special needs of children in the Jamaican justice system, special interventions for children, examination of relevant research and an introductory "train the trainer" course.

"The Children in Court - Court Prep programme is geared towards providing adequate support to its most vulnerable stakeholders, children, who have to interact with the Jamaican justice system," special project consultant in the Ministry of Justice, Ruth Carey explained.

"Upon completion of the training, the volunteers under the direction of the VSU will ensure that the best practices learnt through the programme will be implemented for the benefit of the nation's children. This will be supported by the introduction of unique resource kits including a model court house and therapeutic play materials aimed to teach children about the court environment."

100 persons to be trained

According to Carey, by the end of the project 100 persons, including staff and new volunteers across Jamaica, will be trained to address the unique needs of children in court and will be available to support up to 400 children. Six pilot training projects will be conducted and one permanent court resource kit provided.

"In 2008, the Office of the Children's Advocate conducted a study of 61 children who went through the court process as victims or witnesses to crime. Many of these child victims stated that going to court was the most difficult thing they had to do in their entire lives. They described a process that was confusing, frightening and traumatic. The voices of these 61 child witnesses, as captured through the report, confirmed a wide belief among professionals working with children that Jamaica's justice system is failing to provide adequate support to its most vulnerable stakeholders."

The Children In Court - Court Prep programme is scheduled to be implemented by the MOJ by the end of August upon completion of the final phase of training. Another training is to be held in St Ann this weekend.

- Dave Lindo