The businessman and the 13-year-old
AG seeking to have order detaining girl at NOC declared unconstitutional -says child faces stigmatis
June 16, 2004
Attorney-General (AG) Doodnauth Singh is seeking a stay of execution of the order delivered by Justice BS Roy last Friday directing that the 13-year-old girl involved in a relationship with businessman, Reeaz Khan, be kept in 'protective custody' at the New Opportunity Corps (NOC) for two weeks and receive professional counselling during that time. The AG is also seeking to have the order declared unconstitutional.
The child is now at the NOC on the Essequibo Coast after a month of being in the media spotlight as part of a tug-of-war between Khan and her mother.
In a motion filed earlier this week in the High Court, Singh seeks, among other things, a conservatory order to stay the execution of Justice Roy's order.
Stabroek News had been informed that the judge's decision last Friday had been made after he and 'friends of the court' including senior female attorneys, had visited a number of foster homes suggested to the court by Singh on the previous day, but had been dissatisfied with security and other arrangements in place at those facilities.
Social Worker/Counsellor, Lisa Thompson, had, at the request of the court, undertaken to counsel the child during the two-week period, then make an assessment and submit a report on June 25 when the matter resumes in the High Court.
But Singh contends in his affidavit that the NOC is an institution for youths under the age of 17 who have committed criminal offences, punishable by imprisonment had they been adults, or who cannot be controlled by their parents or guardians or further have been found wandering or not having any fixed place of abode and/or begging or receiving alms.
The AG quoted Sections 10, 11 and 12 of the Training Schools Act Chapter 11:06 in support of his contentions. He further contended that according to Section 13 of the Training Schools Act, were a young offender or person fitting any of the previously mentioned descriptions to be sent to the NOC, a magistrate must make an order of detention to that effect.
"It is the contention of the applicant [AG Singh] herein that even though in the particular circumstances where the Honourable Court may exercise the power of upper guardianship of the child... the honourable court has no jurisdiction in sending the said child to an institution such as the New Opportunity Corps..."
The AG's affidavit in support of his motion said that the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport, which administers the NOC, has assured him that the institution does not have the proper facilities in terms of accommodation and support mechanisms for the 13-year-old, and that having her at such an institution will cause her to be stigmatised.
The AG further contended that the court's failure to include attorney Carol Martindale-Howard on the child's behalf in the chamber proceedings and allow that attorney to make representations on the child's behalf, amounted to a contravention of the right of the child to a fair hearing as guaranteed under Article 144 (8) of the Constitution of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana.
The AG also seeks a declaration that Justice Roy's order be deemed unconstitutional, null and void. The matter is expected to come up in the High Court today at 3 pm.