Published On: Wed, Nov 20th, 2019

Child Friendly Court in Sint Maarten

Ourt Court House by Alphonso Nestor-Hubert

Philipsburg – November the 20th is the International Day of the Rights of the Child. The Sint Maarten branch of the Common Court of Justice also puts emphasis on the importance of this day. As part of the Day of the Rights of the Child, the Courthouse in Sint Maarten will publish a video explaining the child-friendly sessions, known as the Child-Friendly Court, that have been held since August 2019.

The child-friendly sessions
Judge Paula van der Burgt and court recorder Leona Patrick-Gibbs explains in the short film about the sessions in which children are personally invited to talk to the judge. In these sessions, the children sit alone with the judge and the court recorder. In the iconic Courthouse an office space, decorated with colors and some paintings, has been reserved to speak to the children. A waiting room has also been created especially for them so that they can sit at ease while waiting. Even the clothes of the judge and the clerk differ from a regular session. Instead of the strict black gowns and white bands, they are dressed in their normal work clothes. Every effort is made to put the minors at ease so that they can talk calmly and in confidentiality.

Family guardian Meredith Concincion of the Stichting Justitiële Inrichting Bovenwinden tells how the children's sessions are experienced by the minors being called to the court. Concincion explains that as a result of the new approach children are less reluctant to come to the Court. For example, minors now have to wait less or don’t have
to miss school when they have to come to court. The session revolves around their experiences and opinions and they do not have to do this with parents, Court of Guardianship or even the SJIB present in the room. The SJIB sees the Child-Friendly Court as a positive development.

Article 12 Children's rights: Opinion of the Child
Minors from the age of 12 are summoned by the Court in cases such as divorces, out of home placements and all other types of cases that have direct consequences for them. The essence of Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child is that every child has the right to give his or her opinion on matters that concern him/her. That opinion must be taken seriously. The law also stipulates that children between 12 and 18 must be heard in such cases. The Child-Friendly Court makes this possible in an accessible manner.

See the film: https://youtu.be/ij3TeeWJGrI