Antigua St John's - Youth minister Dr Jacqui Quinn-Leandro wants no part of the recent court ruling that would see the deportation of an 11-year-old Jamaican.
The minister, currently attending a conference in Suriname, told Caribarena.com on Wednesday that "the law will take its course,” and she had nothing to add from her youth affairs portfolio.
“This is the judgment of the court,” the minister said.
The primary school student appeared before Chief Magistrate Joanne Walsh on Monday and pleaded guilty to two counts of larceny.
This was his second appearance for the same offence.
Attorney Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin was quoted on observer newspaper telling the court that the boy’s parents were “fed up” with him and had no interest in affecting the court’s decision.
But what sparked the most public reaction, particular from Jamaicans, were the chief magistrate's statements when she handed down her judgment.
Media reports (Observer and The Gleaner) quote Magistrate Walsh as saying, “He is already broken into being a thief. If his own parents can’t cope with him, why should the state cope with him? It is obvious that he does not listen to them (his parents)… I am seriously contemplating on sending him back to Jamaica and he can steal there.”
The story was carried in Jamaica and generated several comments.
Police spokesman William Holder said normally, the boy would have been enrolled in the police force’s Youth Intervention programme, but since he has no legal standing in the country, he cannot benefit from that initiative.
The child reportedly came to Antigua for a visit some time ago and overstayed. His parents did not have his status renewed.
Holder said the parents' status was unclear, but he confirmed that the onus was on them to regularize their son's immigration standings.
Benjamin said his role in the case was purely voluntary, having gotten wind of the case before it was called for hearing.
“I volunteered to help the boy and his family,” he said, but there was little he could do, since the boy’s actions had “caught up with him.”
On Wednesday, he said he had not been able to follow up on the matter, and could not say whether the deportation order had been carried out.
Benjamin said he would be looking into the matter on Thursday.
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