PHILIPSBURG–Today, Wednesday, November 20, is the International Day of the Rights of the Child. The St. Maarten branch of the Joint Court of Justice also puts emphasis on the importance of this day by publishing a video explaining the child-friendly sessions, known as the Child Friendly Court, that have been held here since August 2019.
Judge Paula van der Burgt and court recorder Leona Patrick-Gibbs explain in the short film about the sessions in which children are personally invited to speak with a judge. In these sessions the children sit alone with the judge and the recorder.
In the iconic Courthouse an office space, decorated with colours and some paintings, has been reserved to speak with children. A waiting room has also been created especially for them so that they can sit at ease while waiting.
Even the clothes of the judge and the clerk differ from a regular session. Instead of the strict black gowns and white bands, they are dressed in their normal work clothes. Every effort has been made to put the minors at ease so that they can talk calmly and in confidentiality, the Court said in a press statement.
Family guardian Meredith Concincion of the Foundation Judiciary Institutions Windward Islands SJIB speaks about how the children’s sessions are experienced by minors who are being called to the Court.
Concincion explains that as a result of the new approach children are less reluctant to come to the Court. For example, minors now have to wait less or do not have to miss school when they have to come to Court.
The sessions revolve around their experiences and opinions and they do not have to do this with their parents, the Court of Guardianship or even the SJIB present in the room. The SJIB considers the Child Friendly Court as a positive development, it was stated.
Minors from the age of 12 years old are summoned by the Court in cases such as divorces, out-of-home placements and all other types of cases that have direct consequences for them.
The essence of Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child is that every child has the right to give his or her opinion on matters that concern them. That opinion must be taken seriously. The law also stipulates that children between the ages of 12 and 18 years old must be heard in such cases. The Child Friendly Court makes this possible in an accessible manner. The film about the Child Friendly Court can be seen online on https://youtu.be/ij3TeeWJGrI.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/92619-video-published-about-child-friendly-court