The two boys, aged 11 and 13, were first detained under police care at the Riverside Plaza in east Port-of- Spain. They were then remanded into custody at the Youth Training Centre (YTC), near the Maximum Security Prison, in Golden Grove, Arouca, following their first appearance in the Portof- Spain Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday.
The boys have also been charged with possession of a firearm and possession of ammunition.
Eleven-year old Reuben Reid died after a gun, with which a group of boys, including the two brothers, were playing with went off on August 6 in a garden close to their home.
Since then, the boys’ father also has been charged for possession of a firearm and is still in police custody.
When they reappeared in the Port-of -Spain Eighth Court yesterday, Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar, granted bail in the sum of $75,000 with a surety for each brother, ordered them to the care of their mother and grandfather, and put as a condition of bail that they report every Saturday to the Western Division police. They were represented by attorneys Saeed Trotter and Russel Warner.
Also present was a representative of the Children’s Authority, Nneka Watson. The prosecution was represented by attorney Keston Abraham.
The boys sat quietly in the prisoners dock dressed in short-sleeved shirts and jeans. Sitting in the public gallery directly behind them was their equally stoic mother.
Trotter cited the Children’s Act of 2012, which states that no child should be imprisoned.
He added the Bail Act does not make any specification for children.
Trotter told the Court that there was a change in the wording of the Children’s Act from “imprisoned” to “detained in an adult prison” and this change puts a new light on the Act which should be considered. He said the boys, if not released to the care of their parents, should be sent to a Community Residence or Rehabilitation Centre.
Trotters’ submission to the Chief Magistrate was in response to the Prosecution’s position, presented by Abraham, that because of the severity of the crime, in accordance with the Bail Amendment Act, the two young defendants were not supposed to be granted bail for at least 120 days.
Ayers-Caesar considered adjourning the matter until Monday.
But Trotter pleaded with her to shorten the time for considering the submissions. He pointed out that the children were already traumatised by the ordeal, and further incarceration would only serve to do more harm than good.
“Please, try to do this for the children,” the defence attorney pleaded.
The matter was stood down until the afternoon.
When recalled, Ayers-Caesar said “I am satisfied, considering all the factors — and I do believe that every case should be treated individually — that the young offenders should be granted bail.” During the morning session, the Children’s Authority’s representative pointed out to the Chief Magistrate that the Authority was not informed, by any official body, of the children being charged.
He added that they only knew of the situation via the media.
The Chief Magistrate admonished the prosecution, advising that in all matters where a child is arrested and charged, the Children’s Authority is to be informed.
Ayers-Caesar said the Bail Amendment Act was to make sure that decisive action be taken against persons already charged with an offence, and are still found committing offences.
She also pointed out that the Act had a focus on gang-related activities.
She said, in contrast, the Children’s Act of 2012 would cover all matters involving persons under the age of 18 as it relates to criminal acts against children and child offences. She said the Court cannot apply the same yardstick for children being charged as compared to adults being charged when it comes to the treatment of child offenders.
The Court also considered whether it would be in the best interest of the children to keep them incarcerated, as well as the age and the state of the children, and whether the children understood the consequences of their actions.
If the children were to be released, the Chief Magistrate pointed out, there would have to be proper supervision of the children by either the parents or the Children’s Authority.
Ayers-Caesar referenced Section 7 of the Children’s Act which says “Where a person is in possession of a firearm or ammunition and fails to take reasonable precautions to guard against a child having access to the firearm or ammunition, and by reason thereof, the child has access to the firearm and injures himself or another, that person commits an offence” She said the section suggested that the burden of responsibility is on the owner of the firearm.
The Chief Magistrate added that in looking at both the Bail Amendment Act and the Children’s Act, she felt the Bail Amendment Act did not consider the effect it would have on the Children’s Act.
She said the boys will have to undergo psychological assessments and a psycho-educational assessments before they return to Court.
The Magistrate elicited a relieved smile from the mother, relatives and many others who were in the courtroom to witness the proceedings.
The boys also appeared relieved upon hearing that they would be going home.
The matter was adjourned to December 15.