Magistrate bemoans generation of lost boys’
A generation of “lost boys” need to be saved, senior magistrate Juan Wolffe warned on Friday.
Mr Wolffe said abuse of drugs and alcohol by young Bermudians had created a crisis.
He added: “The vast majority of male teenagers who find themselves in Magistrates’ Court for committing offences have used or are using alcohol or cannabis, and they have not matriculated past high school.
“Most disturbingly, there is absolutely no desire in them to cease smoking marijuana and they refuse to see any correlation between their cannabis use and their failure at school or their criminal conduct.
“What we see is a population of lost boys whose futures look sadly bleak and it will remain that way until they acknowledge that cannabis use has seriously affected them and they must cease and desist the abuse.”
Mr Wolffe said: “The stark reality is by the time a young person interacts with the courts, their antisocial behaviour has already become deeply ingrained in their lifestyle and their perceptions of the world.”
He was speaking as the island’s courts marked the start of the new legal year. Mr Wolffe said a stronger educational campaign and rehabilitative regime needed to be set up to prevent drug and alcohol abuse.
He added: “On the surface, Bermuda appears to be a place where visitors and locals alike frolic on pink-coloured sand under baby-blue skies.
“However, the magistrates often see what others deliberately ignore.
“There also exists a deeply entrenched underbelly, punctuated with violence against our children and elderly, antisocial behaviour, rampant dysfunction, alcohol abuse, juvenile delinquency, teen promiscuity and the erosion of our social norms and values.
“It is not my intention to sound dystopian, but it is crucial that we acknowledge the depth of the problem so that we may implement sustainable solutions.”
Mr Wolffe also questioned the effect decriminalisation of cannabis would have on the island.
But he said: “I have faith that prior to the enactment of this legislation, that there was a comprehensive analysis into whether Bermuda — unique and distinct from other places — should decriminalise cannabis.”
Mr Wolffe also said pay and benefits for magistrates and their staff should be brought more in line with other legal professionals.
He added: “It’s profoundly concerning that magistrates are still being treated as less than other members of the judiciary and other legal officers in the Civil Service.
“There is still the need for the Constitution to be amended to bring magistrates fully into the fold, with the same security of tenure that the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court judges enjoy.”
He also called for “magistrate” to be replaced with “judge”, as had been done in other jurisdictions.
Mr Wolffe said: “Such a change would reflect the nature, quality and volume of work conducted in Magistrates’ Court, give magistrates equal footing with judges and encourage others to consider a career in Magistrates’ Court.”
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