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New regulations will help safeguard children

Attorney-General Kathy Lynn Simmons (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

New regulations to better protect the rights of children are being finalised, senators heard yesterday.

Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General, said that the move would “enhance the effectiveness” of the National Child Safeguarding Committee.

She added that since its creation in 2016 the committee “has developed protocols, goals and objectives and has outlined main areas of focus”.

Ms Simmons added: “This includes legislative changes and training, along with a more robust system of offender management and a community awareness programme.

“The aim is to promote recognition that our children are our most valuable resources, and that when one is injured, we all hurt.”

She said the committee had three key aims — to strengthen the legislative, collaborative and community protection frameworks.

Ms Simmons said that objectives proposed by the committee included amendments to the Criminal Code Special Measures provisions to reduce revictimisation of children while testifying, allowing uncorroborated testimony from children, and increased sentencing powers in Magistrates’ Court to reduce the number of cases that force child victims to go through Supreme Court trials.

Ms Simmons said that reporting of known or suspected neglect or abuse of a child was mandatory in Bermuda.

She added: “In circumstances where individuals or institutions fail to identify or fail to report the signs of abuse and neglect, the consequences can be far-reaching and have a lasting adverse impact on children, their families and the entire community. I state categorically this is not acceptable, and is not an option.”

Ms Simmons said that some abuse and neglect had gone undetected.

She added: “Failure to report or share information, and failure to recognise abuse, or failure to understand the nature and level of the risk of harm faced by our children cannot be allowed to continue.”

Ms Simmons said that committee members had received training in forensic interviewing to help ensure that children are not further victimised during investigations. Ms Simmons added: “We are determined to do all that we can to strengthen our child protection system, legislative and statutory duties, and to enhance offender management regimes in ways which bring security and an environment that optimises the development of our most valued resource — our children.

“Child safeguarding is a necessity and our pledge is to continue to fully embrace and support this initiative.

“We see a brighter future for our children through these efforts.”