For Justices of the Peace involved in children’s courts on Fridays, any and all help is welcome because the cases are getting harder.
That opinion, offered by JP Paulette Conolly-Bailey, provided insight as to some of the obligations involved in holding the post. Ms Conolly spoke from the floor during the annual general meeting of the Justices of the Peace Association held on Saturday at the Seafarers Hall.
She expressed appreciation for the presence of clerks in the juvenile court because it helped hearings go more smoothly. She asked for more meetings with social workers so that JPs would better understand their options and correlate written recommendations with oral ones.
Mrs. Hope Stephenson suggested more interaction amongst the JPs themselves so they could exchange experiences and learn from each other.
Mrs. Stephenson called for better education of the public so the role of the JP would be understood. She suggested posting lists of JPs in the districts with their telephone numbers so people would know whom they could go to.
Association president Vernecia Watler took all comments on board and encouraged discussion of concerns.
Treasurer Georgette Myrie offered to assist in updating a list for easier contact. She told the gathering Cayman has 156 JPs appointed to date. Of this total, 74 have joined the association, but quite a number were inactive, she reported.
Miss Vernecia, who along with the rest of council members was re-elected without opposition, gave her report for 2008-09. Her first priority was to acknowledge Magistrate Grace Donalds, who runs training sessions for JPs. Miss Vernecia urged everyone to participate in the sessions.
She reported on meetings of JPs with young people in the various districts, talking with them about their concerns and explaining what a JP does. This was a project she hoped would continue.
The president, who resides in East End, revealed that she and a colleague had received permission from a district bar owner to go into his establishment shortly before the general elections in May and talk with patrons about the need for a trouble-free election day. Not only were they well received, they were also invited back, she noted.
Miss Vernecia shared a strategy she employed in the children’s courts to get to the root of a problem. She said if the JPs invited a child up to the table where they sat, the child would tell them more than if he or she remained in the usual seating area.
She threw out a question for everyone’s consideration – Now that Tranquillity Bay in Jamaica – a home for youngsters in trouble – has been closed to the young people the courts had been sending there, ‘What must we do with these children?’
The final item of business was the election of officers for 2009-10. All serving members had agreed to continue and there were no other nominations.
Rejoining Miss Vernecia are treasurer Georgette Myrie, secretary Debra Humphreys, council members Harry Chisholm, Thomas Bodden and Andrew Eden.