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Protection of children’s welfare

Monday, April 23, 2012
Children’s Rights Part 1
Children with “Break the Silence” jerseys take part in the Justice for Children march yesterday. The march began at King George V park and made its way around the Queen’s Park Savannah, attracting thousands of people, both young and old. PHOTO: SHIRLEY BAHADUR

This is a two-part article dealing with the welfare of children. In this article, I focus on child cruelty and other offences relating to young people. Next week’s article will focus on sexual offences involving children. The responsibilities of those who care for children and young people are wide and seek to guarantee the best interest of the child. The specific offences explained here are contained in various pieces of legislation in Trinidad and Tobago which protects the welfare of the child.

Child cruelty
While internationally and under the Status of Children Act, a child is anyone under the age of 18 years, according to the Children Act a child is anyone under the age of 14. 


People who are older than 16 years and who are responsible for the care, custody or charge of a child are under a duty to protect the child. Those in charge of children must not wilfully assault, ill-treat, neglect, abandon or cause unnecessary suffering or injury to the health of the child. These offences are known as offences of cruelty.


Some of these offences are further explained in the Children Act. The offence of “neglecting a child” relates to occasions when an adult is responsible for the health of the child, yet fails to provide adequate food, clothing, medical aid or lodging for the child. Additionally, “injuring a child’s health” includes causing injury to or loss of sight, hearing, limb or organ of the body, or any mental derangement.


A person convicted of committing any act of child cruelty may be fined between $5,000 and $10,000 and is liable to six months and two years’ imprisonment. Where the injury inflicted on a child leads to serious injury or death, the person alleged to have caused the injury or death may be charged with more serious criminal offences, ranging from assault to manslaughter or even murder.


Offences relating to young people
A young person is described as someone who is between 14 and 16 years. Those who care for young people are under a duty to ensure that young people:
(i) are not forced to beg or receive alms in streets;
(ii) are not exposed to the risk of being burnt; and,
(iii) are not exposed to the practice of prostitution or work in brothels.


The penalty for these offences range from a three-month term of imprisonment to a five-year term.



Protection from publications that could corrupt children
Children and young people are protected from publications which depict:
(i) the commission of crimes;
(ii) acts of violence or cruelty; or,
(iii) incidents of a repulsive or horrible nature.


Anyone who exposes a child or young person to any publication in any of these categories can be charged and, if found guilty, is liable to a fine of $2,000 and four months’ imprisonment. This column is not legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should consult a legal adviser.


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