UK Minister Mike Freer MP, from the Ministry of Justice, visited the BVI between Sunday 5th and Tuesday 7th November. The purpose of the visit was for the Minister to see first-hand the opportunities and challenges in the BVI justice system, and to identify areas for further partnership with the UK.
On Monday, Minister Freer met the Premier, Dr. Natalio Wheatley, and discussed overcrowding in the prison and the rehabilitation of offenders. He then visited HMP Balsam Ghut with the Minister for Health & Social Development, Vincent Wheatley, to see the facilities and hear from prison staff.
Freer also had meetings with a number of leading BVI law enforcement officials.
On Tuesday, Minister Freer visited the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF) Marine Unit to see the UK-funded Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boats (RHIBs).
There he learned about the challenges in dealing with drug and gun trafficking due to the BVI’s porous borders.
The Minister finished his visit with a trip to H. Lavity Stoutt Community College for a lively discussion on parliamentary democracy with the Minister for Education, Hon Sharie de Castro, to mark UK Parliament Week.
Students posed questions to both Ministers and the event helped the students tolearn more about the political systems in both the BVI and the UK.
Minister Freer said “I am grateful for the warm welcome I have received in the BVI. The challenges that law enforcement agencies face are not unique, and we must work in partnership to deal with them. The UK Ministry of Justice is committed to supporting HMP Balsam Ghut. Over the past 12 months we have provided training, personnel support and equipment.”
BVI Governor, John Rankin said: “I am grateful to the Minister for undertaking this busy programme. His visit showed the importance of learning and sharing best practice in meeting common challenges. I remain committed to working with both BVI and UK partners in reviewing and improving the law enforcement and justice systems here in the BVI.”