Already overstretched, the resources of the Probation and Welfare Departments will be placed under even greater pressure if the Child Protection Bill is enacted, says attorney-at-law Michael Lashley KC.
The legislation allows for a Director of Child Protection to intervene in child abuse matters and decide whether to remove a child from his or her home. Lashley noted that the process would require case reports to be done by the staff of several departments.
“The reports will be made by the various social agencies – probation officers, welfare officers – and what you are doing is placing more work on top of the already overburdened Probation Office and Welfare Office. These same probation officers have to prepare pre-sentencing reports in the criminal courts. These same probation and welfare officers have to prepare reports for family law cases in the civil courts.
“So, rather than expanding the Probation Office and getting more officers, and expanding the whole cohort of welfare officers, you come now to put a Bill that is asking for all kinds of reports and all kinds of orders that you know will not happen in six, seven or eight weeks because a pre-sentencing report in a normal matter takes sometimes three months to come to us or sometimes more,” he stated while noting that the Bill needs “bodywork”.
He also told the Democratic Labour Party’s Joint Zonal Meeting at Deighton Griffith Secondary School on Sunday that it was time to expand the Community Legal Services Act to give legal aid when a person is charged or before the court and during their interrogation.
Agreeing with the Government’s intention to introduce a parole system, he said people deserved “a second chance”.
“I believe that we should seek to rehabilitate first-time offenders. I believe that by now, we should have a secondary institution to assist those first-time offenders rather than putting them up at Dodds to rub shoulders with hardened criminals,” the defence lawyer added.