Trinidad and Tobago Juvenile Court Project

What is the project about

 Newly inducted Peer Resolution Volunteer Members pictured with speakers at the event. From left to right: Former Tobago House of Assembly Secretary for Education Youth Affairs and Sport, the Honourable Huey Cadette; the Honourable Mr. Justice Ivor Archie, former Chief Justice of Trinidad and Tobago; Mr. Ted Lawrence, General Development Office Director for the USAID/Eastern and Southern Caribbean; and Mr. Richard Blewitt, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative for Trinidad and Tobago.

The Trinidad & Tobago Judiciary's Juvenile Court Project is an important step in achieving meaningful juvenile justice reform and embracing global standards in adjudication involving children and guarantees the rights of children in accordance with the United Nations Convention of the Rights of a Child, and principles of restorative justice. Important strides have been made toward the modernisation of the juvenile justice system in Trinidad & Tobago, such as the adoption of the Children Act 2012 and the Children Authority Act. The importance of these key pieces of legislation cannot be understated as they address many of the deficiencies in the existing system such as the absence of specialised juvenile courts, enhancement of preventative and diversionary programmes and a government institution mandated to protect the rights of children.

The Juvenile Court Project (JCP) will play critical role in the next phase of the ongoing juvenile justice reform in the Trinidad & Tobago. The activities of the JCP will focus on the implementation of core areas of the Children Act and the Children's Authority. The project will establish two juvenile courts, one in Port-of-Spain and in San Fernando, respectively. In keeping with a more rehabilitative and less punitive approach, the project will develop court-annexed diversion programmes through coordination and referrals mechanisms in cooperation with the Children's Authority, other state agencies and NGOs. JCP will draft court rules and procedures and build the institutional capacity of the juvenile courts to adjudicate juvenile cases in an effective and efficient manner.


The Juvenile Court Project will embark upon justice system modernisation and reform initiatives, which have three (3) associated programme components, these are:

1. Support for the implementation of the provisions of the Children Act 2012 inclusive of the development of a pilot juvenile court system.

This objective will support the implementation of the provisions of the Children Act 2012 by undertaking the development of a pilot juvenile court system. It is proposed that a pilot be developed for a juvenile court system with one specialised juvenile court facility in at least two locations in Trinidad and Tobago.

This will require:

• The outfitting of space to meet standards which will be set for the hearing of juvenile matters.

• The development of court rules, policies and procedures for the handling of juvenile matters.

• The development (in partnership with the Children's Authority and with the assistance of relevant NGOs of policies and procedures which impact the operations of the juvenile court.

• The support for government agencies and NGO's in improvement of diversionary programmes by the use of a responsive fund managed by the Project Manager as per the UNDP rules and regulations similar to its Small Grants Programme and Standard Agreement with NGOs.

• The training of all actors in the juvenile justice system on new legislation as well as on new rules and procedures for the handling of juvenile matters. This will include sensitivity training.

• The building of capacity to support the juvenile court to manage cases in an effective and efficient manner.

This will include:

•The creation of coordinating and referral mechanisms.

• The training of persons who will provide legal representation to children in a juvenile court.

•The skills training of judicial officers in the handling of matters where decision making involves children- with special focus on matters in which children are accused as perpetrators of crime but also where children are witnesses, victims or otherwise children at risk.

• The training of juvenile court staff in juvenile court process and skills.

• The procurement and installation of appropriate ICT for the juvenile court.

• Monitoring and evaluation of the Juvenile Court Pilot.

•Creation of risk assessment to assist juvenile court judges in adjudication cases and referrals to rehabilitation and diversion programs.

•Creation of tracking system in connection with the production of recidivism report.

2. Conduct a Pilot Juvenile Court, inclusive of Youth Court, which has sittings in at least two locations in Trinidad, and based on assessments during the project, sittings in Tobago. These locations will be determined by the Youth Court Committee.

A system will be developed by which youth are involved in the decision making process in certain juvenile matters selected by the judiciary. This is an education by participation initiative. By this system, the youth selected to be involved will be trained to understand the operation of law, the concept of rule of law, and the operation of the judicial system as well as the roles of the actors in the system. This training and involvement will be in selected cases in a capacity to be decided by the judiciary and/ or the legislature depending on the role to be afforded the young participants. The court sittings will take place in at least two locations in Trinidad.

An assessment will be undertaken in Tobago to determine if a juvenile court sitting is feasible, if so sittings will take place in at least one location in Tobago. If it is not feasible a mock youth court initiative will be explored to engage and sensitise the population.

In order for this to be achieved the project will undertake the:

•Development of a Concept and Framework for Youth Court.

•Legislative drafting including primary and secondary legislation and rules and procedures.

•Training of youth participants, judicial officers, attorneys and social workers and court staff.

•Monitoring and evaluation of the training and the pilot programme.

3.Execute a Public Education and Sensitisation Programme.

The project is a highly visible one which will have tangible effects on the quality of justice for children and families, and on the society as a whole. A good Public Education and Sensitisation Programme is a necessary part of project success as has been seen from the public education undertaken for the Family Court Pilot. Apart from improving the knowledge of the services offered, it also proved to heighten sensitivity to the issues at hand in the society and to family issues.

A focused, targeted communications and public education programme will be designed and implemented to advocate, educate, promote and inform about the project, its objectives and benefits. A general public education effort will focus on sensitising the national community on the issues of juveniles before the courts; and the project objectives and outcome to generate national interest and also to educate the public on how the juvenile court will operate. Communication initiatives will be implemented with specific messaging aimed at engaging key stakeholders and facilitating appropriate opportunities for collaboration.

One key target group is the youth/ student population; a Judiciary Youth Outreach will be executed with specific focus on this group. The objectives are to educate the youth about the judicial system; generate interest in the pilot Youth Court; and disseminate information, packaged in innovative mediums.

Key Communications Strategies will include:

•To strengthen relationships and collaborate with stakeholders by facilitating opportunities for contribution to the project outcomes.

•To develop strong yet appropriate working relationships with the media, to promote informed reporting of project activities.

•To utilise traditional and new media platforms to reach stakeholders groups, engage dialogue and opportunities for participation and inclusion by all.

•To engage strategically in well-coordinated, innovative communications messaging and mediums to reach each stakeholder group.

Who finances it

USAID $4,545,765
In kind contributions $450,000

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