Dec. 11, 2002 – Young people who find themselves in trouble with the law in the Virgin Islands may also be finding their names published in the newspapers and broadcast on the airwaves, along with those of their parents or guardians.
It has been the practice of the local news media — as is the case in many other jurisdictions — not to identify minors charged with or found guilty of crimes, and in the past it has been against the law for them to name such individuals. Now, however, a Family Court judge has decided to put a heretofore ignored 1994 disclosure law into force.
The law provides for the names of minors age 14-17 to be made public once the teen-agers are convicted in Family Court of committing any crime that would be a felony if they were charged as adults. Under the same section of the V.I. Code, the parents of the adjudicated delinquents also can be publicly identified.
"It's part of a crackdown on crime. I endorse it 100 percent," Attorney General Iver Stridiron said on Wednesday. He said it was the decision of Territorial Court Judge Rhys Hodge, appointed to Family Court in September, to put the law into effect.
The results of that decision became apparent last week, when the Police Department began naming minors and their parents in releases to the news media. The releases also cite the offenses the youths have been convicted of committing and the punishment meted out by the court. Offenses reported to date in these "police blotter" releases include assault, credit-card fraud, attempted robbery and possession of a dangerous weapon during the commission of a crime of violence.
Punishment is generally a combination of probation, restitution to victims, community service and mandatory reporting to school or work.
The Police Department releases carry a statement at the bottom which reads: "The release of the names of minors 14 years and older and their parents is a requirement of the Family Division of the Territorial Court and the V.I. Police Department as per the Virgin Islands Code laws."
It remains up to the individual news media to decide whether to publish or broadcast the names and any other information concerning the cases.
Stridiron said that publishing of the names should prompt parents to take a more active role in guiding their errant children, so as "to avoid public embarrassment and ridicule."
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