More than 20 members of the Juvenile Panel plus officials of the Magistrate’s Court attended an appreciation luncheon hosted by Magistrate Ancella Evans-Williams in the conference room of the office of the Prime Minister on November 19. Magistrate Evans- Williams welcomed everyone, thanking them for all the hard work they put in volunteering their time to serve on the juvenile panel. As an icebreaker she then asked each person to introduce themselves.
The comments showed that the members of the panel come from all walks of life ranging from business people and retired persons to ministers of religion. While some are fairly new to the panel others have served for 10 years or more. These persons are selected by Cabinet based upon certain criteria and serve on the panel on a rotation basis under the chairmanship of the Magistrate.
Comments showed that the panelists view their work as very important and very challenging. They all love young people, have a desire to serve the community of Abaco and try to be a good influence on the young, making a difference in their lives, especially males.
Magistate Evans- Williams told those gathered that she felt it a privilege to lead this team of energetic individuals. She stated that the juvenile panel has authority to sit and adjudicate all matters pertaining to juveniles under the age of 18 according to the powers contained in the Child Protection Act and the Magistrates Act. Two panelists sat with her on each case.
“I am aware of the sacrifice you all make on a regular basis; this is more time-consuming than sitting on a regular bench because in order to make decisions and do what is best for the juveniles, panelists must not only speak to the juvenile but also to parents and social services to get a complete picture,” stated the Magistrate.
Ms. Charlamae Fernander, Head of Social Services, spoke briefly stating that, “The juvenile panel is critical to the well-being of society”, and she thanked the panel for their contribution saying that they are always thorough, fair and impartial in their assessments and recommendations.
Alexander Flowers, Undersecretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, gave a welcome on behalf of Parliamentary Secretary Renardo Curry and underscored the need for a strong community service program in relation to juvenile offenders. He expressed their gratitude for the services performed by the juvenile panel on behalf of the community describing their job as one very important to the well-being and continued development of the community.
He described how the magistrate is able to draw from their experiences since they know the situations in the community where these juveniles live. He stated his appreciation of the discretion used in recommending for children to remain in their own community where they can receive counselling rather than be sent to the detention centre where they would be exposed to all manner of devious behaviours.
Following the formalities the members of the juvenile panel and officers of the court enjoyed a delicious traditional Thanksgiving luncheon of turkey and ham while fellowshipping together.