skyrocket, Juvenile Crime escalates — Report says
The Magistrate’s Court is setting aside two days in each month to deal
exclusively with traffic offences. The number of traffic offences has increased
dramatically during the last three years: from 112 in 2001, to 383 in 2002, to
663 in 2003.
The 2003 Magistrate’s Court Report pointed out that the number of civil and
criminal cases filed decreased slightly in 2003 but at the same time there was
“a drastic increase in the number of traffic offences brought before the Court”.
Civil cases have gone from 453 in 2002, to 402 in 2003, and criminal cases have
declined from 863 in 2001, 821 in 2002, to 757 in 2003. However, domestic
violence cases are on the rise: 24 in 2001, 38 in 2002 and 39 in 2003.
In 2003 budgetary provision was once again made for the appointment of a Second
Magistrate, but as in 2002, no budgetary provision was made for the support
staff needed to allow the Second Magistrate to “function effectively”.
SECOND COURTROOM NEEDED
During 2003 several meetings were held between the Magistrate and
representatives of the Deputy Governor’s Office and the Public Works Department
with a view to producing architectural plans for an extension of the
Magistrate’s Court. The 2003 Report stated that “these plans were in fact
produced and include a Second Courtroom and offices for the Second Magistrate
and staff.” Nevertheless, the position of Second Magistrate remains vacant.
CRIME BY YOUTHS INCREASING
The Magistrate’s Court continues to face the challenge of dealing with a
“significant” number of young offenders, many of whom are charged with serious
offences. The Report pointed out that “sentencing options remain limited”.
Similarly disquieting is the Report’s information about criminal cases involving
mentally ill offenders. The Report stated that there is no Mental Hospital in
the British Virgin Islands where these defendants can be detained, if detention
becomes necessary. “In certain cases it has been necessary to remand these
defendants to Her Majesty’s Prison while awaiting an assessment as to the
soundness of his/her mind.”
The report did not mince words in pointing out that “this is not the best
solution; and it is hoped that in the near future there will be an appropriate
facility for these defendants.”
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