Re Roberts, (peter), (an Infant) by the Child Care Board

JudgeWilliams, C.J.
Judgment Date12 February 1990
Neutral CitationBB 1990 HC 6
Docket NumberNo. 772 of 1989
CourtHigh Court (Barbados)
Date12 February 1990

High Court. (Civil Jurisdiction)

Williams, C.J.

No. 772 of 1989

Re: Roberts, (peter), (an Infant) by the Child Care Board

Mrs. B. Walrond for the applicant.

Mr. Clyde Nicholls for the Magistrate.

Natural justice - Trial of juvenile found wandering on streets — Child Care Board being guardian — Committed to Government Industrial School by Magistrate — Child Care Board not given hearing — Breach of rule of natural justice and right to fair hearing — Order for certiorari to quash decision of Magistrate.

Williams, C.J.

The 14 year old applicant, Peter Roberts, acting by his guardian and next friend the Child Care Board and pursuant to leave granted on June 30, 1989, seeks an order of certiorari to remove into this court and quash a decision made on March 20, 1989 by Mr. Haynes Blackman, a magistrate of District A, ordering the applicant's detention at the Government Industrial School for 3 years.


Section 14(1)(b), (3) and (4) of the Reformatory and Industrial Schools Act Chapter 169 enacts –

  • “14.(1) … any person may bring before a magistrate any child apparently under the age of sixteen who is (b) found wandering and not having any home or settled place of abode or proper guardianship or visible means of subsistence.

  • (3) Subject to subsection (4), where the magistrate before whom a child is brought as coming within subsection (1) is satisfied on enquiry of that fact and that it is expedient to deal with him under this Act, he may order him to be sent to the School.

  • (4) Where for the first offence the parent or guardian of such child appears before the magistrate and claims the child, such child shall be delivered up to such parent or guardian on such parent or guardian undertaking in writing to be responsible for the good behaviour of the child for the period of 12 months from the day of the date thereof.”


Section 9(1) and (2) of the Juvenile Offenders Act, Cap. 138 (which relates to proceedings in Juvenile Courts) provides –

  • “9.(1) Where the child or young person admits the offence or the court is satisfied that it is proved, he shall then be asked if he desires to say anything in extenuation or mitigation of the penalty or otherwise…

  • (2) Before deciding how to deal with him, the court shall obtain such information as to his general conduct, home surroundings, school record and medical history, as may enable it to deal with the case in the best interests of the child or young person and put to him any question arising out of such information.”


Rules 3, 4, 7 and 8 of the Juvenile Offenders Rules, 1933, as amended by the Juvenile Offenders (Amendment) Rules, 1951 No. 2 prescribe –

  • “3. Every magistrate shall notify the Probation Officers a reasonable time before each sitting of a juvenile court of the names and addresses of the children or young persons to be tried at such sitting.

  • 4. It shall be the duty of the Probation Officers sometime before such sitting to interview the parents or guardians of such children or young persons and whenever possible obtain their school records.

  • 7. When a child or young person is to be brought before any court in respect of an offence alleged to have been committed by him, the person bringing the child or young person before the court shall as soon as possible and in any event before the lodging of the complaint (information) notify the Probation Officer of the nature of the charge and furnish him with such further particulars in relation thereto as he may require.

  • 8.(1) If any person acts in contravention or fails to comply with any of the requirements of Rule 7 of these Rules he shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty dollars.

    • (2) Proceedings against any person in respect of such offence shall be instituted only by the Probation Officer.”


The facts are that –

  • (1) the applicant was born on December 12, 1974 and has since May 16, 1975 been under the care and control of the Child Care Board, living at the Nightengale Home, Black Rock, St. Michael;

  • (2) on Saturday March 18, 1989 he was absent without permission, was held by the Police on Black Rock Main Road and taken to the Black Rock Police Station and was due to appear before the magistrate on Monday, March 20 pursuant to section 14 (1) (b) quoted above as a child apparently under the age of 16 years who was found wandering and not having any proper guardianship, allegedly, his first offence;

  • (3) sometime between 10.30 a.m. and 11.00 a.m. on Monday Miss Beckles, the probation officer assigned to the court, informed the court that a juvenile was to be placed before the court for wandering but had not yet arrived;

  • (4) at about 11.30 a.m. when the case was again called the applicant had still not been brought before the court and all other matters having been called and disposed of, the magistrate retired to his Chambers. The Probation Officer understood that the court was adjourned for the day and left the premises after informing the prosecuting Sergeant that she would “check back” to enquire about the matter. She expected the case to be set for another day or sent to the Juvenile Court and in either case that a probation report would be ordered;

  • (5) sometime between 11.30 a.m. and midday the applicant was placed before the court. The Probation Officer was not present and the prosecuting Sergeant, on the magistrate's enquiry as to her whereabouts, said that she had “gone to come back”. The matter was temporarily adjourned pending the return of the Probation Officer;

  • (6) the case was again called about an hour later. The Probation Officer was not present and the Magistrate proceeded to hear and determine it.


What transpired thereafter is detailed in the magistrate's affidavit –

  • “7. The court then explained to the accused in simple language the nature and substance of the offence and asked him if he understood the allegation against him; without hesitation he said “Yes”.

  • 8. The court next asked the accused whether he admitted the offence and after pausing for a few minutes he replied quite clearly and distinctly “Yes”. The court then recorded the plea of guilty.

  • 9. The court then asked Prosecutor Sergeant Mayers for the facts and he said “the accused is an inmate of the Nightengale Home but in recent times has not been living there, but would visit there and beat the small children. He would also threaten the staff and on several occasions he broke and entered the said institution. Then on March 18, 1989 about 1.10 p.m. he was seen walking along Black Rock Road and he was brought to the Black Rock Station. The Police charged him in the presence of Maria Bowen of the Nightengale Home.”

  • 10. The court enquired of the accused whether he understood what the Sergeant had just said and he replied almost spontaneously “They does treat me bad and blame me for everything that happen.”

  • 11. The court then had a long discourse with the accused, during which time it ascertained that he did not know or was not in communication with either of his parents or any of his relatives.

  • 12. The court also questioned the accused about his not living at the Nightengale Home, his beating...

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