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Litigation guardian recruitment campaign to be launched

Minister of Social Development and Seniors Tinee Furbert hosted a Throne Speech press briefing (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

More litigation guardians are needed to provide a voice for children in the island’s courts, with a recruitment campaign to be launched in the months ahead.

Tinée Furbert, the social development and seniors minister, told the House of Assembly that five guardians were in place and dealing with cases referred by the family courts.

All children referred to litigation guardians have come from “adverse childhood experiences”, she said, from “damaging parental separation” to “direct abuse and neglect”.

“I believe we are now at the stage where the entire family justice system is working together with one voice, and that voice is the voice of the child,” Ms Furbert told MPs.

She said the ministry was working on a storage space and work area for guardians.

She highlighted a “closer and deeper involvement of the judiciary” in the steering committee for developing the guardian system.

Questioned by Opposition MPs, Ms Furbert said that “approximately ten” cases that went before Bermuda courts last year had seen litigation guardians appear on behalf of minors.

She said there had been as many as seven guardians in the past – adding that the ministry would “like to expand to seven” as well as boosting the pool of people qualified for the job.

In December, the official gazette showed that Catherine Sousa, Sharon Apopa, Lyndon Jackson, Lashonna Smith and Susan Adhemar had been taken on as guardians.

Jarion Richardson of the One Bermuda Alliance said the move had bipartisan support – noting that the Opposition had been calling for progress on guardians for several years.

A training programme for the court advocates had a substantial uptake last year, according to the ministry, after consultants were brought from overseas in 2021 to boost the procedure.

A litigation guardians panel was established in 2019, in the wake of criticism from the OBA on the running of the Department of Child and Family Services

The Court of Appeal ruled that year that the Government’s failure to fund court advocates for children was in breach of the Children Act 1998.

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Published February 06, 2023 at 7:45 am (Updated February 06, 2023 at 7:45 am)

Litigation guardian recruitment campaign to be launched

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