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Oct 22, 2021

More Proactive Approach to Juvenile Law

Balderamos Garcia explained that the law provides for a proactive rather than a reactive approach when dealing with children with vulnerabilities.


Dolores Balderamos Garcia

Dolores Balderamos Garcia, Minister of Human Development

“We want to change the paradigm from criminalizing young people’s behaviour and looking to where there are indeed vulnerabilities and the need for child protection, you see. So, in the Certified Institutions Act there is something called status offences. Status offences mean that it’s not an offence for an adult to do so but it’s an offence for a teenager, meaning like uncontrollable behaviour – that’s the favourite one – or the least favourite one, if I could put it that way; also things like truancy, breaking curfew, smoking or drinking, so we want to get away from that. Now, that’s not to say that we don’t have some children in the hostel who have committed stealing or something like that. As a matter of fact, I think we have some children there for stealing. And the age of criminal responsibility in Belize is twelve. The vast majority of the children at the hostel are there for what is called status offences and that very horrible term of “uncontrollable behaviour” means that there is vulnerability because the parents or guardians of that child haven’t been able to cope with them and so they want to put them somewhere that it’s not their problem. Now, the whole approach of our Ministry, and we actually have families in the name of the Ministry, is to try to strengthen families with the interventions from the Ministry and to support families so that we do not have children with uncontrollable behaviour. So that is the approach that we want to take and we will be signaling to the Magistrates’ Courts and Families Court that if a parent comes and says that this child has uncontrollable behaviour you don’t just put them in the hostel until age eighteen.”

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