Nassau, Bahamas - For five weeks, 10th grade students at the Akhepran International Academy prepared for a full mock trial presentation as a part of the Resistance And Prevention Program (RAPP) organized through the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF). The lively, one-day trial unfolded at the school in front of program facilitators, youth leaders, student observers and parents.
In a case involving two teenagers using cell phones and social media in an inappropriate and possibly criminal manner, participants presented a full case complete with witnesses and cross examinations. Noted local attorney, Mr. Wayne Munroe, Q.C., served as trial magistrate and offered guidance to the students during the mock trial.
Event organizer and PADF Program Coordinator, Mrs. Charo Walker-Morley said the RAPP initiative seeks to implement proven crime prevention strategies into local communities through activities like mock trials, which introduce young persons to the judicial process.
“We do this by training law enforcement, justice officials, government employees and community leaders on how to reach out to youth and community members with crime prevention activities,” Morley-Walker explained. “The mock trials help students to understand the importance of the judicial system, helps them to understand court processes and most importantly, it helps them to understand the very serious consequences of committing an offence.”
On hand for the trial presentation was Jamie Martin, Director of the US Embassy International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. She reiterated her office’s commitment to strengthening law enforcement in The Bahamas, supporting counter-narcotics operations and working with the government to strengthen the judicial process. “A judicial system that gives people who are accused of a crime their day in court, a chance to be fairly represented and have their side of the story heard is a fundamental component of a free and fair society,” Martin said as she commended the students on their efforts.
Walker-Morley thanked QC Munroe, Ms. Martin, Dr. Jacintha Higgs, principal at Akhepran and the project facilitators particularly attorney Italia Cartwright who volunteered her time to train the students leading up to the mock trial.
PADF launched Phase II of the community-based RAPP initiative in The Bahamas in April 2016. Beyond the mock trial exercises, the program engages industry stakeholders across law enforcement, social services, education and the legal profession to put preventative measures in place to reduce the risk of violence within specific communities. Earlier this year, PADF officials trained 21 persons as facilitators to work directly in neighbourhoods to combat issues of gang violence, domestic abuse and improve overall conflict resolution. This summer, the Royal Bahamas Police Force camps also received support from RAPP facilitators.
The project is fully funded by the United States Department of State, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs and is available in New Providence, Grand Bahama, Abaco, Exuma, Eleuthera and Mayaguana. Similar RAPP programs also exist in Trinidad and Suriname.