May 24, 2013 | 03:16 PM (BD Time)
24 May, 2013 Friday
Children justice system in Bangladesh
Justice M Imman Ali :
(From previous issue)
The guidelines provide that community-based services and programmes should be developed for the prevention of juvenile delinquency. They enjoin governments to establish policies that are conducive to the bringing up of children in stable and settled family environments. Families in need of assistance in the resolution of conditions of instability or conflict should be provided with requisites service. Where attempts to create a favourable environment within the family or the extended family fails, alternative placements, including fostar care and adoption, should be contdered.
The guidelines further provides that the communities should provide a wide range of community-based support measures for young persons, including community development centres, recreational facilities and services to respond to the special problems of children who are at social risk. Voluntary organisations and use organisations should be created at the local level in order to engage the youth in projects. Schools should be motivated to create extra-curricular activities for children outside school hours in order to keep them engaged in fruitful activities.
Alternatives to institutionalisation
The conditions in the three Youth Development Centres are far from satisfactory. Convicted children, neglected children and those who simply lost their way, all mingle in the same playground. No separation of older children from younger ones is possible. Keeping children in detention centres or homes as a means of correction has the reverse effect. They tend to feel stigmatised and alienated and as a result they lose their self-esteem and develop anger and despondency. Destitute, abused and neglected children put into institutional care, results in negative effects on their personality, and make a bad psychological situation even worse. On the other hand, children in institutions are at risk of physical and sexual abuse and also tend to develop into gangs which tend to increase their criminogenic behaviour. Hence, ways must be devised to return the children to the community as early as possible. To this end there is an ongoing project of Save the Children UK in collaboration with UNICEF in Jessore. Through this project many children have been rehabilitated with their families. Such projects should be emulated elsewhere in the country.
Suggestions/recommendations in the Judgments of the High Court Division
A number of difficulties faced in trial of children were highlighted in the case of Roushan Mondal. It was recommended that the law should be amended or new laws formulated to update the Children Act incorporating the provisions of the CRC. This was again repeated in the case of State v Metropolitan Police Commissioner, 60 DLR 660. In the latest reported decision in State -Versus" Secretary, Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs and others, 29 BLD 656 certain observations and recommendations were made. Some of the recommendations are listed below:
1.Government to enact laws or amend the existing law in order to ensure implementation of all the provisions of the CRC, which are beneficial to children and also to minimise the anomalous situations which are when dealing with children
2. Prompt action must be taken to ensure that the definition of 'child' is uniformly fixed in all statutes as anyone below the age of 18 years.
3. The date relevant for considering the age of the accused is the date of commission of the offence which is fundamental to the concept of protection of children who are not fully mature and do not appreciate the consequence of their actions.
4. In all matters where a child is an accused, victim or witness, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.
5. A child's views shall be considered by the Court.
6. In all cases where a child is accused of commission of any offence under the Penal Code or under any special law he is to be tried by a Juvenile Court or any other appropriate court or tribunal in accordance with the provisions of the Children Act and Children Rules.
7. The use of children for the purpose of carrying drugs or arms or in any other activity which exposes them to physical and moral danger or any harm must be made a criminal offence to be tried under the Children Act.
8. One Court in each district must be designated as being a court dedicated to hear cases involving child offenders so that children's cases can be heard and disposed of on a priority basis.
9. Legal aid must be made available in all matters involving children.
10. Make probation officers available on call round-the-clock in all parts of the country.
11. Places of safety must be set up, it least one in every district.
12. Local health clinics must be empowered for the purpose of medical examination of the victim so that the need to detain victims in custody is minimised.
13. For proper implementation of the provisions of the CRC as well as other international instruments, it is necessary to have sensitised personnel dealing with children at the various stages of the justice process, namely in the various departments, ministries, judiciary, police, probation and other relevant agencies
14. Training/courses for judges, judicial magistrates and executive magistrates.
15. A specially trained police force who will be child sensitive. Each police station shall have at least two of such trained officers, of whom one shall be a female.
16. Formation of a Children's Commission/Children's Ombudsman or alternatively a National Juvenile Justice Forum under the chairmanship of a sitting Supreme Court judge. Such forum shall be empowered to issue directions and guidelines to the subordinate judiciary and other bodies regarding any issues relevant to justice for children.
17. A summary of guidelines/directions to be displayed in prominent places, including police stations.
18. The police stations shall display in a prominent place names and contact numbers of probation officers, doctors on duty, place of safety, and approved homes, certified institutions and NGOs working in the area.
19. In the police station, children shall be kept separately from adult accused persons.
20. Police officers should work in close Corporation with probation officers, the safe homes and NGOs working in the field in the local area so that protection, safety and well-being of a victim child can be provided without any delay.
21. As soon as a victim child is brought before the police station, or the police are informed about the whereabouts of a victim child, the probation officers should be informed.
22. The probation officer shall visit the victim child without any delay.
(To be continued)
23. It shall be the duty of the police officer or the court to determine whether it is safe for the child to return with the parent or guardian. If necessary, the child shall be asked about these matters confidentially and without presence of its parent or guardian.
24. A child shall not be separated from parent or guardian save in exceptional cases.
25. In the absence of a parent or guardian a relative or other fit person may be entrusted to keep the child in safety.
26. The government must provide sufficient number of places of safety, at least one in every district, so that such a place safety is easily accessible from any part of the country.
27. The Ministry of Women and Children Affairs and Ministry of Social Welfare should provide training for their own officers as well as for the probation officers, managers and concerned staff employed in the safe homes and other places used for detention of children.
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