Govt quizzed on juvenile detention facility
The GSD’s Daniel Feetham quizzed the Government this week on construction of a young offenders secure unit, adding that it was “not justified” that juveniles were being remanded alongside adults in Windmill Hill.
He asked when the Government intended to commence construction work on this facility and questioned whether this would happen during this four-year term of Government.
“All data collected will be analysed by the Youth Justice Committee so that a comprehensive and robust framework can be put forward detailing what the needs for such a service should look like and what resources will be needed to achieve such goals,” the Minister for Justice, Samantha Sacramento, replied.
She said the Youth Justice Committee was set up last November and was a multi-agency group that looked at issues affecting young offenders in Gibraltar.
But Mr Feetham questioned whether the Government was “rowing back” from a commitment to construct a new young offenders secure unit.
Ms Sacramento said that this was about having the “right professionals in the room having a conversation to advise the Government, no more, no less.”
She said that if the conclusion of that advice was to build a secure unit, then the Government would do so.
But it may not be the “only outcome,” and there may be other ways of dealing with the children, she added.
Mr Feetham said that since they were in Opposition, the GSLP-Liberals’ view of keeping juveniles in mainstream prison was that it “was simply not justified”.
“[Mr Feetham] is assuming that an alternative to a youth offenders’ institution is prison,” Ms Sacramento said.
“Indeed, the juvenile wing of a prison that he was responsible for when he was Minister for Justice, so he is the one who dealt with a juvenile wing in Her Majesty’s Prison.”
“As it is, I am not suggesting that that is the likely outcome of the recommendations by this committee.”
She said the Youth Justice Committee, which is chaired by Care Agency CEO, Carlos Banderas, may feel that a “hybrid” is a better outcome.
Mr Feetham said that “services progress over a period of time” and that while he accepted that the former GSD Government should have built the facility, it was “not possible at the time.”
He said it would have cost “many millions” and exceeded the GSD Government’s budget at the time.
In a swift response, the Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, said this has to be dealt with “on the basis of professional advice.”
“The finding of the Council of Europe [which in a report had been critical of the lack of facilities] was based on what we inherited, which the honourable gentleman was responsible for building, not being fit for purpose,” Mr Picardo said, adding that the prison project had run over budget and, while being “very fit for purpose”, were “very unfit for the purse.”
“We will continue the project in trying, despite the very challenging times that we live both financially and generally, to determine how best to go forward with this so that we don’t again make the mistake that he made, and we inherited.”
“I am sure that it wasn’t intended to be a mistake, it was a decision made as a Minister trying to deliver the right thing for the community, but we don’t want to fall into that trap.”
Mr Picardo said his Government would take the advice given to them by the Council of Europe to “cure the defect” it had identified.