3. State Party Reports
Trinidad and Tobago
[Parts of State party report relating specifically to relevant legal minimum ages, and articles 37 and 40]
II. DEFINITION OF THE CHILD
21. Age of attainment of majority. According to the Age of Majority Act, chapter 46:06 a person under the age of 18 years is regarded as a minor and as lacking full legal capacity. The Children Act, chapter 46:01 is the primary piece of legislation dealing with the protection of children and the relationship between children and the legal process. "Child" is defined as a person under the age of 14 and "young person" as a person who is 14 years of age or older and under the age of 16. The distinction is made because under the Act, the court treats a child differently from a young person in respect of certain matters, for example committal. The Act deals not only with protection of persons under 16 years, but also with certain offences committed against these persons, industrial schools and orphanages, juvenile offenders and employment of children.
24. Minimum age for giving voluntary testimony. A child may give sworn testimony if he/she understands the nature of the oath. The child may give unsworn testimony if he/she does not understand the nature of the oath provided that the court considers him/her to be sufficiently intelligent to justify the reception of evidence and also considers him/her to understand the duty of speaking the truth.
25. Minimum age of deprivation of liberty. A child under 14 cannot be sentenced to imprisonment. A child who is 14 years or older and under the age of 16 may be sentenced to imprisonment if the court determines that the child is so unruly or so depraved that he cannot be detained in an institution other than a prison.
29. Criminal liability. The age below which a child is conclusively presumed to be unable to commit an offence is seven years under the common law. However, legislation raising the age of criminal responsibility to either 10 or 12 is being considered.
30. Deprivation of liberty. The provisions of the Children Act deal with corrective action where minors come into contact with the courts, and where "children" under 14 years of age are treated as one category and "young persons" of 14 or 15 years as a different category. The Act only extends to persons of 16 and over in a few contexts.
Planned action in regard to definition of the child
31. The Government is considering recommendations to:
IV. CIVIL RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS
H. The right not to be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (art. 37)
47. The Children's Act, chapter 46:01, section 78, states that a child may not be sentenced to imprisonment, and a young person may not be imprisoned unless he is certified to be unruly or depraved. Even then he must not be allowed to associate with adult prisoners, and in no circumstances could he be sentenced to hard labour when that obtained.
48. Where a person under the age of 18 years commits an offence for which the death sentence applies, such sentence may not be pronounced or recorded against him. Instead he is sentenced to be detained during the State's pleasure (Children Act, chap. 46:01, sect. 79, as amended by Ordinance No. 6 of 1953)
VIII. SPECIAL PROTECTION MEASURES
A. Children in conflict with the law
147. The general provisions of Trinidad and Tobago's criminal and penal systems are in conformity with the requirements of this article. However, persons of 16 and 17 years of age are not regarded as children, and do not generally benefit from the protections in place for young persons.
The administration of juvenile justice (art. 40) and children deprived of their liberty, including any form of detention, imprisonment or placement in custodial settings (art. 37 (b), (c) and (d))
148. Apprehension of juveniles. When a juvenile is apprehended and it is not possible to take him before a magistrate immediately, the officer in charge of the relevant police station has an obligation to release the juvenile on sufficient recognisance, unless the charge is one of homicide, or a grave crime. The officer also has discretion not to release the juvenile if it is in his own interest to be removed from associating with a reported criminal, or if the officer has reason to believe that his release would defeat the ends of justice. If the juvenile is detained he must be kept at a place of detention in the meantime, unless the officer certifies that this is impracticable or that the juvenile is too unruly to be safely detained in this way, or that it is inadvisable to detain him because of his state of health or his mental or bodily condition. It is the responsibility of the police to prevent the juvenile from associating with any adult offenders (excluding relatives) whilst in custody. Once the matter comes before the magistrate and the juvenile is remanded or committed for trial, if he is not released on bail, he must be committed to a place of detention. As soon as a juvenile is arrested, his parent or guardian should be notified by the police and warned to attend court. If necessary the magistrate has power to enforce their attendance.
149. Court procedure. The substance of the charge is explained in simple language to the juvenile. Even though the charge is one where the accused would normally be given the option of electing a trial by jury, charges against a child are always dealt with summarily except murder or manslaughter. In the event that the offence is proved or admitted, the accused may make a statement in extenuation or mitigation. Thereafter he may be remanded pending a probation report.
150. Sentencing. The usual penalty imposed by the court is financial since juveniles are only detained in exceptional circumstances. A child may not be sentenced to imprisonment, and a young person may not be imprisoned unless he is certified to be unruly or depraved. Even then, he is not allowed to associate with adult prisoners and under no circumstance can he be sentenced to hard labour. Apart from the imposition of fines, the Court has a wide range of orders which it may make including:
151. Apart from the circumstances when the court is concerned to address custody and other issues when typically the child is not directly involved in the proceedings, children may also be involved in court procedures either as victims or as offenders. There is a body of law establishing offences which have particular reference to children, the manner in which the court deals with children as witnesses and as offenders, and the remedies which may be applied.
152. Offences against children are identified in the following Acts: Children Act, chapter 46:01; Offences against the Persons Act, chapter 11:08; Summary Offences Act, chapter 11:02; Sexual Offences Act, 1986; Family Law (Guardianship of Minors, Domicile and Maintenance) Act, chapter 46:08. Offences under the Children Act and certain offences listed in the Schedule to that Act trigger the court's power to protect children in various ways. The Act defines "child" as a person under 14 years and a "young person" as someone who is 14 or 15 years. Chapter 46:01 of the Act is mainly concerned with the protection of children and young people, and the police are given wide powers in this area.
The sentencing of juveniles, in particular the prohibition of capital punishment and life imprisonment (art. 37 (a))
153. The legal system does not permit a death sentence to be pronounced or recorded against a person under the age of 18 years and he is instead sentenced to be detained during the State's pleasure. (Sect. 79, Children Act, chap. 46:01 as amended by Ordinance No. 6 of 1953).
Planned action in regard to children in conflict with the law
154. As a result of the escalation of criminal activity, thought to be particularly marked among the juvenile population, Cabinet appointed in August 1992, an inter-ministerial committee to examine the situation. The committee submitted a report in January 1994 containing several recommendations for the establishment of projects/programmes in the following areas.
155. Stigmatization. Having noted an increase in the proportion sentenced to imprisonment and the research data on the deleterious effects of all custodial sentences on prognosis, as well as the possible stigmatization which may result from any individually focused intervention, the mixing of categories of detainees at the various institutions, the high proportion of remandees at the Youth Training Centre, and the award of custodial sentences for slight offences in some cases, the committee recommended, inter alia, the following short-term measures:
156. Family related factors. The committee noted that lack of parenting skills was one factor associated with juvenile and youth crime as well as intrafamilial violence and lack of parental means. In this context the strengthening of the capability of the family to fulfil basic functions of socialization and inculcation of values was regarded as critical. In view of this the committee recommended the following measures:
157. Homelessness/destitution. The committee noted the problem of youth homelessness and in particular the situation of young people who leave the children's homes and various correctional institutions. The committee recommended the following measures:
158. Drug use and abuse. The committee recommended the following measures:
159. The committee made the following general recommendations:
160. Correctional Programmes. The committee also endorsed the recommendations for institutional care reform contained in the Ministry of Social Development (Family Services Division) report on the situation analysis of children in extremely difficult circumstances, such as:
161. In keeping with the general recommendations, a committee has been appointed to monitor implementation of the recommendations contained in the Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Crime Committee report and a subsequent ministerial report identifying programmes pertinent to the recommendations. This committee has been mandated to:
162. In order to facilitate the execution of its mandate the committee is engaged in the following tasks.
163. The following factors and difficulties exist:
[Further information in State party report relating to the administration of juvenile justice]
V. FAMILY ENVIRONMENT AND ALTERNATIVE CARE
J. Periodic review of placement (art. 25)
82. Under various provisions in the Children Act, the Minister of Social Development is given the power to what effectively amounts to a review of a judicial decision committing a child or a young person to the care of a "fit person" or to a certified school or orphanage. The Minister can therefore discharge a child or young person, including a youthful offender, from the care of a fit person or from a certified school either absolutely or on such conditions as the minister approves. While this may facilitate the rehabilitation of such children and their reintegration into society, there are no guidelines as to the exercise of this power. In addition, no specific body or officers is conferred with the authority to monitor such children or to make recommendations to the minister.
83. Factors and difficulties encountered include the following:
Existing programmes in regard to family environment
84. The National Family Services Division, Ministry of Social Development, conducts lectures, seminars, etc. on family life issues such as parenting, child and adolescent development, and human behaviour and sexuality. Information on Family Life Education is disseminated via the print and electronic media. Counselling services are also provided by the National Family Services and the Probation Divisions to "walk in" clients and referred cases.
85. An integrated programme of support for children in especially difficult circumstances was developed based on the findings of a "Situation analysis of children in especially difficult circumstances" completed in 1993 and funded by UNICEF.
86. The programme's activities are national in scope and are being implemented at the community level through voluntary groups and non-governmental organizations. The programme's major objectives are:
87. The three strategic areas identified are:
Advocacy for public policy and programme support
88. Activities already implemented include the following:
Strengthening capabilities in supportive environments
89. A series of training workshops entitled "Caring for care givers" targeting the staff of children's homes was conducted in 1993. The workshops were designed to improve the quality of the services provided to the children and to increase the ability of the care givers to provide guidance to the children in their care. The infusion of the "Caring for care givers" curriculum into related training curricula and programmes has also commenced.
90. A policy on standards and procedures for children's homes was published and distributed to the managers of the homes.
Planned programmes in regard to family environment
91. Community involvement and outreach activities include the following:
Source: Initial reports of States parties due in 1994: Trinidad and Tobago, UN Doc. CRC/C/11/Add.10, paras. 21, 24-25, 29-31, 47-48, 82-91, 147-163 (17 June 1996)