Boy gets home and support

The teenaged boy who had nowhere to go was given a home on Friday.

He will stay in Cayman with a relative, with social workers ready to assist if problems arise.

The 14-year-old boy appeared in Grand Court last week so that Justice Priya Levers could be given an update of his situation.

As reported previously, he had completed his sentence for robbery and possession of an imitation firearm with intent to commit an offence. He was still at Eagle House and a recommendation had been made to send him to Tranquility Bay in Jamaica. One reason was the absence of parents – one living abroad and the other in prison (Caymanian Compass, 25 June).

At that hearing, Justice Levers said she had to be satisfied his welfare would be best served by going to Tranquillity Bay. She asked for evidence of what happened at that facility and if any child had improved as a result of being there.

Tranquility Bay has a website on which it is referred to as a specialty boarding school. In Cayman, it has been declared a youth rehabilitation school for the purposes of the Youth Justice Law.

On Friday, the judge said she had spoken with social workers. One said she had spoken with another young person who had been to Tranquility Bay. Asked what he had learned, he said – the difference between right and wrong, and how to make a decision.

The social worker said she asked the young person what decision he had made. He replied ‘To go back to my old ways.’

The judge said the option of Tranquility Bay had to be looked at carefully. She also pointed out she had no jurisdiction to send the boy she was dealing with there because he was not a ward of the court. Neither was she going to throw him out on the street. ‘I’m going to deal with you in a way that my conscience is clear and I can sleep at night,’ she told the boy.

In the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, one basic right is to enjoy one’s own culture, the judge said. Cayman is this boy’s culture.

Crown Counsel Tanya Lobban said there had been a recent official visit to Tranquility Bay and the report was now with Cabinet. The judge said she would like to see a copy if or when it became available.

Ms Lobban indicated that the boy’s situation had not been easy to deal with because of his history. There had been attacks on people at the Bonaventure Boys Home, so he could not go back there. He had also been found to have learning disabilities.

In a previous experiment, the boy had stayed with a relative, but that did not work out. The relative now proposed was someone else.

Justice Levers spoke directly to the relative. ‘You’re taking on a handful… You know he’s not going to change overnight,’ she said. The judge suggested the social worker should be contacted if the boy did not behave himself, so she could give advice. Hopefully there would be some financial assistance.

Justice Levers then spoke to the boy. ‘You have to behave yourself. Cayman is your home. I’m trying to keep you here.’

She warned that if he did not behave he would end up spending his life in custody. She told him not to give his relative any trouble. Each time, he replied, ‘Yes, ma’am.’

Defence Attorney John Furniss said now that this had been settled, he could assist the boy with resolving other matters in the Youth Court. Educational and therapeutic help might be needed.

The judge told the boy that if he had to go to Tranquility Bay it would not be as punishment; it would be to help him be a better person.

‘Yes, ma’am,’ the boy replied.

Mr. Furniss said Cayman already has a facility, but the plan or structure was not there for education. The facility has inmates from age 14 to those about old enough to move into the prison. ‘Perhaps money spent for Tranquillity Bay would be better spent providing education,’ he said.

Justice Levers said an atmosphere of love and motivation could be provided at Eagle House. ‘I can’t for the life of me figure why it hasn’t been done.’

Mr. Furniss said this case had helped raise the issue.

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