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Belize

Making the Courts Child-Friendly

Jan 18, 2019

Making the Courts Child-Friendly

Over the years, the number of children who come in contact with the law has increased. Fundamental challenges exist in properly dealing with these types of cases; challenges such as a properly educated staff and adequate infrastructure to house a child-friendly space. With this in mind, efforts by UNICEF and other entities were made to properly equip the Family Court to deal with child-related cases. Stakeholders gathered in Belize City to participate in a training facilitated by Independent Consultant Henry Nzedom. News Five’s Hipolito Novelo reports.

Henry Nzedom, Independent Consultant

“The amount of children who come in contact with the law is growing. Several reports have been pointing to that. So yes, this initiative is important because the amount of children that come in contact with the law keeps increasing.”

Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

Independent Consultant Henry Nzedom was brought in to conduct training on the rights of a child and making the courts child-friendly. The aim is to enhance the capacity of the magistracy in handling cases involving children who come in contact with the law, either as alleged perpetrators, victims or witnesses. Previous to the training, Nzedom conducted a needs assessment study to discuss key topics during the nine-day training.

Henry Nzedom

“The training needs we identified included topics like child interview. How do you interview a child? How do you talk to a child? You don’t interview a child the same way you interview an adult. So that was one topic. Another topic would know the applicable instruments. There is a set of a number of instruments have to be taken into account when working in cases involving children. There were a few other topics like knowing who is the child’s justice actors and how to work with them. And how to deal with a specific group of children like victims and alleged offenders and so on.”

A child-friendly family court exists in Punta Gorda- a model to be followed by other districts. While progressive steps have been made to have the infrastructure in place, there is still room for improvements.

Henry Nzedom

“There are still a few miles to go for the other districts to have a child-friendly space in the court. SO yes there is still a little bit to do more when it comes to infrastructure. When it comes to the staff, the staff is in place. People seem to love their job. They seem to know what they are doing. They need their skills enhanced as we are doing now to be up to date with the legislation and all the standards and the new research on child development and that kind of things. Definitely, infrastructure is a big question that I think the authorities should look into more and more. As I said, it keeps coming up.”

Three groups of working professionals will participate in the training. The mission is to convert the training into an online sustainable initiative.

Henry Nzedom

“We are working on a project to have this training transfer on an online platform where people can go there and train themselves. We can find a way to make sure that the training is available. We are also thinking about adding a monitoring and evaluation part to his initiative where judiciary authority will be able to see how well people are putting in practice what they are learning here.”

The training is being funded by UNICEF. Reporting for News Five, I am Hipolito Novelo.

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