Barbados Drug Treatment Court holds first formal session

The Barbados Drug Treatment Court held it first formal session at the Supreme Court of Barbados at Whitepark Road in the city of Bridgetown. The Drug Treatment Court initiative, supported by the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) of the Organization of American States (OAS), has emerged as one alternative to incarceration that emphasizes community-based substance abuse treatment and supervision of addicted non-violent criminal offenders.

The first formal sitting of this Court represents the culmination of three years of preparatory work by a multidisciplinary team of professionals within a Steering Committee that included representatives from the Bar Association, treatment providers (CASA and Verdun House), the Police, the Probation Department, the Ministry of Health, the Forensic Science Centre, the Office of the Attorney General and the National Council on Substance Abuse.

The Steering Committee was chaired by High Court Justice Randall Worrell with Chief Magistrate Pamela Beckles as Deputy Chair. The Barbados Drug Treatment Court is a Magistrates’ Court and persons charged with non-violent related offences whose drug addiction or dependency is a factor in the commission of their crimes are eligible to participate in the program.

The first formal Court session was presided over by Chief Magistrate Pamela Beckles and twelve participants (eleven males and one female) appeared in this sitting. The Court session, as is the practice in these courts, was preceded by a pre-court meeting where the court team (the Presiding Magistrate, the Probation Department, the Forensic Science Centre, the Treatment Providers, the Police Prosecutor, and Defense Attorneys) reviewed each participant’s case and made recommendations as to how they should be treated by the Court.

The Court session lasted just over an hour and participants were encouraged during the session by the Chief Magistrate Pamela Beckles to utilize this opportunity to turn around their lives and become productive members of society.

This first formal session of the Barbados Drug Treatment Court was witnessed by the Chief Justice of Barbados Sir Marston Gibson, the Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs, Adriel Brathwaite and High Court Justice Randall Worrell. The High Commissioner of Canada to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Richard Hanley, Transnational Crime Specialist, Julie Heumphreus, and Narcotic Affairs Officer, Robert McDonald, of the Embassy of the United States of America, the Country Representative of the OAS, Francis McBarnette and several senior judicial officials were also in attendance. The Drug Treatment Court of Barbados will convene its next formal session on Wednesday 11th February, 2015.

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