PUNTA GORDA TOWN, Tues. June 30, 2015–For the first time, Family Court matters will be dealt with outside Belize City, and to facilitate that process, a first-of-its-kind court with child-friendly features was officially inaugurated today in Punta Gorda Town, Toledo District.
The two-storey building includes two child-friendly interview rooms, two one-way mirror rooms, and a play area, and was the product of a joint 3-year project between the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Supreme Court called “Promoting Children’s Access to Justice” which, we understand, is aimed at establishing a child-friendly justice system in Belize.
As part of that project, new policies and procedures have been developed to respect children’s rights and needs as part of an institutional reform of the court system to protect children involved in court cases.
The reform is a comprehensive strategy, which encompasses the provision of adequate physical infrastructure, as well as capacity building, and thus included child justice training sessions for Belize’s judges and magistrates.
“Today marks the day when the spirit of the Family Court legislation is given new significance… It is intended that this facility will offer the services required to respond to and respect the needs of children”, said Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin, in concluding his remarks at the opening of the building.
The overall cost of the project is BZ$1 million, and it is being conducted in partnership with agencies such as the Belize Legal Aid Office, The Department of Human Services, The National Committee for Families and Children, The Belize Police Department, and several other stakeholders.
We understand that a child-friendly Family Court is also scheduled to be erected in San Ignacio Town, Cayo.