Trinidad and Tobago: Access to justice for children

This report is part of CRIN's access to justice for children project, looking at the status of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in national law, the status of children involved in legal proceedings, the legal means to challenge violations of children’s rights and the practical considerations involved in challenging violations.

Trinidad and Tobago has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), but has yet to incorporate the Convention fully into its national laws. The Convention does not take precedence over national law and cannot be directly enforced in domestic courts unless the relevant section has already been incorporated into national law, but it can still be applied as interpretive guidance. Children can bring legal claims, including judicial review challenges, in all domestic courts to challenge violations of their rights, although they must generally have a “next friend” to conduct proceedings on their behalf. However, a child claimant may apply to the courts in order to  conduct proceedings without the assistance of a next friend. Some challenges of violations of children’s rights can also be initiated by third parties, e.g. NGOs, with a “sufficient interest” in the case. Legal aid is available to children, including to children charged with a crime or in detention, limitation periods will not commence until the child reaches 18 years of age and specialised procedures are applied to children giving evidence. As Trinidad and Tobago denounced its ratification of the American Convention on Human Rights and its acceptance of the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 1999 and as the country has not yet passed all required legislation to implement its obligations under relevant UN conventions, children in Trinidad and Tobago are mostly limited to challenging potential violations of their rights under domestic law. Yet, research suggests that judgments by domestic courts are often delayed, particularly in criminal appeals.

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