By Hope Olajumoke Fajana
Since ancient times enlightened legal systems have distinguished between juvenile delinquents and adult criminals. The immature generally were not considered morally responsible for their behavior. Under the Code Napoléon in France, for example, limited responsibility was ascribed to children under the age of 16. Despite the apparent humanity of some early statutes, however, the punishment of juvenile offenders until the 19th century was often severe. In the U.S then, child criminals were treated as adult criminals. Sentences for all offenders could be harsh and the death penalty was occasionally imposed.
The first institution expressly for Juveniles, which is the House of Refuge, was founded in New York City in 1824 so that institutionalized delinquents could be kept apart from adult criminals. By the mid-19th century other State Institutions for juvenile delinquents were established, and their populations soon included not only young criminals but also less serious offenders and dependent children. The movement spread rapidly throughout the U.S. and abroad. These early institutions were often very rigid and punitive.
In the second half of the 19th century increased attention was given to the need for special legal procedures that would protect and guide the juvenile offender rather than subject the child to the full force of criminal law. Massachusetts in 1870 and 1880 and New York in 1892 provided for special hearings for children in the courts. As the U.S. juvenile justice system began to develop, jurisdiction over criminal acts by children was transferred from adult courts to the newly created juvenile courts. The first such court was established in Chicago in 1899. One of the principal reasons for the new system was to avoid the harsh treatment previously imposed on delinquent children. An act of wrongdoing by a minor was seen as an indication of the child’s need for care and treatment rather than a justification for punishing that child through criminal penalties.
Besides the Juvenile court, other innovations in working with juvenile delinquents have appeared in the 20th century, including child-guidance clinics, juvenile-aid bureaus attached to police departments or other official agencies, and special programs in schools.
GENERAL CAUSES OF JUVENILE DELIQUENCY
Juvenile delinquency is also known as teenage crime. It is like any crime that human beings commit but these crimes differ because they are committed by young people.
Many theories concerning the causes of juvenile crime focus either on the individual or on society as the major contributing influence. Theories centering on the individual suggest that children engage in criminal behavior because they were not sufficiently penalized for previous delinquent acts or that they have learned criminal behavior through interaction with others. A person who becomes socially alienated may be more inclined to commit a criminal act.
Theories focusing on the role of society in juvenile delinquency suggest that children commit crimes in response to their failure to raise their socioeconomic status, or as a repudiation of middle class values. Most theories of juvenile delinquency have focused on children from disadvantaged families, ignoring the fact that children from affluent homes also commit crimes. The latter may commit crimes because of the lack of adequate parental control, delays in achieving adult status, and hedonistic tendencies. All theories, however, are tentative and are subject to criticism.
Some of the most common causes of juvenile delinquency are as follows:
Family: Family is the basic socialization agency for the children. Children learn basic concepts about good and bad from their family. Thus family makes their values and set the norms of society.
Families have also experienced changes within the last 25 years. More families consist of one-parent households or two working parents; consequently, children are likely to have less supervision at home than was common in the traditional family structure. This lack of parental supervision is thought to be an influence on juvenile crime rates. Family can make or break the personality of children.
Most of the adolescents who shows delinquent behavior in any form belong to families that could not give firm foundation to children. Broken families, single parent families, separated families, frequent parents fight, lack of trust and confidence among parents, financial crises, psychological problems in parents, favoritism among siblings as well as siblings’ rivalry. Parenting style also matters, parents are sometimes very harsh and they punish their children for small issues. All these and many more of family situations can cause juvenile rebellious acts, which can subsequently leads to delinquency in children.
Other identifiable causes of delinquent acts include frustration or failure in school, the increased availability of drugs and alcohol, and the growing incidence of child abuse and child neglect. All these conditions tend to increase the probability of a child committing a criminal act.
Willful Acts: sometimes parents or family has nothing to do with the delinquent behavior of the juvenile. There are sometimes personal reasons responsible for the delinquent acts. Sometimes an adolescent faces hardship in life due to some psychological or physical problem that he is going through. Thus a physically challenged teen is much likely to go through some problems such as discrimination. Such negative feelings may make the person commit crime even if he belongs to a good family. Adolescents who are suffering from some psychological or physical problem are much likely to take revenge from society, friends, family or peer group.
In furtherance, teenage boys and girls go through several social problems. Some teens are very harsh and speak rudely as they cannot control their anger or aggression. Most of the gender biased boys talked to the opposite sex like they are slaves and they do not respect other peoples opinion. Their violence and aggression makes them have the tendency of committing crimes that other teens will never do.
Peer group Influence: peer group is a very strong force that can cause delinquent behavior in adolescent. Adolescent sometimes shows delinquent behavior when they cannot get similar resources as their friend have. Also when friends commit crime, adolescents often learn to do it and they cannot understand the consequences of the crime. Peer group rejection is also another factor that causes juvenile delinquency, sometimes youth that do not get acceptance by his peers might felt unworthy, thereby developing low self-esteem which can as well leads to crime.
Poverty: Poverty is only good in poetry; the psychology effects of poverty on young ones can virtually cause an adverse effect. Poverty can twist the mindset of a right thinking person to become unreasonable, angry and volatile. Where children suffers shelter, food and other basic amenities, they tends to become scavengers and voracious with little regards for others just to get the basic amenities they need.
Huge responsibilities at tender age: The stress of huge responsibilities at a young age tends to wear a juvenile threshold of tolerance out, thereby causing him/her to be wayward. Such responsibilities may include catering for younger ones when parents has no time, academic stress etc, a juvenile in such position may take solace by joining bag gang, binge drinking, drugs and other immoral acts.
OCCURRENCE OF JUVENILE CRIMES WORLDWIDE
The horrifying trend of juvenile delinquency around the world has become so alarming and it has become a matter of concern for parents, society as well as the government. But have we ever considered why juvenile crimes are becoming so rampant? With zero bias, one can say the surroundings our youth lives has culminated either negatively or positively to the lives of the Juveniles.
According to one study in Finland, the larcenies known to the police were only 5 percent of the total that occurred.
The major causes of delinquency in various countries are related to each nation’s economic and social environment. In Nigeria, for instance, the incidence of widespread poverty and the number of abandoned children in large city slums may be primary causes of juvenile crime.
Delinquency research in India suggests that the primary causes are the changing social system, the population explosion, and shifting morals and values. Egypt reports that known delinquency has doubled in recent times, coupled with a decline in available services for offenders.
Many of these juvenile delinquents have been faced with very difficult social circumstances, such as surviving as abandoned children in city streets. Although the Soviet Union abolished its juvenile court system in 1935, it was not successful in eliminating delinquency. The government variously blamed the problems on inadequate parenting, failure of the schools, and remnants of the past sociopolitical climate. Many countries, such as Japan, report a decline in the number of juvenile delinquents that parallels a decline in the number of young people generally. Almost universally reported is the fundamental change in or breakdown of traditional patterns of family living, and this is cited as a major cause of juvenile crime around the world.
JUVENILE AND THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE IN COMMONWEALTH COUNTRIES
Juvenile justice systems must above all emphasize the well-being of the juvenile and ensure that any reaction to juvenile offenders shall always be in proportion to the circumstances of both the offenders and the offence.
Across the Commonwealth countries, a number of challenges exist in respect of an effective juvenile justice system. Not all member countries have for example, dedicated juvenile justice systems with separate courts and staffs. Some countries also do not have adequately resourced social welfare departments which can effectively support the work of the courts in dealing with juveniles. Thus Juveniles may sometimes be held in detention facilities alongside adults.
Statistical information regarding juveniles who come into contact with the law is often extremely limited, resulting in difficulties in identifying trends in types of offending and in enabling proper planning and effective policy decisions to support juveniles in order to prevent them from coming into conflict with the law. Many countries also have outdated legislation relating to juvenile justice or no relevant legislation at all.
The commonwealth Basic Framework for the Implementation of a Functional Juvenile Justice System is designed to guide member countries as to the key achievable elements that a juvenile justice system should include, in line with the United Nations Standards Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The framework is intended to be flexible enough to be adapted to the different national circumstances of individual countries.
At their meeting held in 2005 in Accra, Ghana Commonwealth Law Ministers noted that every commonwealth country is party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Law Ministers requested the Commonwealth Secretariat to continue to support member countries in complying with the Convention and to examine good practice in juvenile justice and to bring forward recommendations which could be implemented in commonwealth member countries.
Subsequent to that meeting, Commonwealth Secretariat conducted visits to a range of countries for the purposes of reviewing the situation related to juvenile justice. Consultations were held in Barbados, Fiji, Guyana, the Maldives, Namibia, Samoa, Swaziland, Tanzania (Zanzibar) and Zambia. The commonwealth Secretariat also attended a meeting of the South Pacific Council of Youth and Children’s Courts where the needs of both developed and developing states were discussed. Australia, Fiji, Kiribati, New Zealand, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu were represented at that meeting. A draft Basic Framework was considered by Senior Officials of Commonwealth Law Ministries at their meeting in London in October 2007.
Written comments on the draft Basic Framework were subsequently received from a number of countries. The revised draft Basic Framework for the implementation of a Functional Juvenile Justice System was presented to Commonwealth Law Ministers at their meeting held 7 to 10 July 2008 in Edinburgh. Law Ministers encouraged the Commonwealth Secretariat to continue to support member countries in their obligations towards the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child recommended the Basic Framework for implementation.
FRAMEWORK AND RECOMMENDATION FOR THE BETTERMENT IMPLEMENTATION OF FUNCTIONAL JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM
An effective juvenile system comprises of a number of necessary components which are inexpensive to implement. With some technical and material assistance from International Organizations such as the Commonwealth Secretariat, effective juvenile justice systems are achievable.
The following are the suggested basic components of a framework for juvenile justice.
- Principles of Proportionality:
The wellbeing of the child as well as the principle of proportionality are the overarching principles that apply in juvenile justice as set out in Rule 5 of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (The Beijing Rules) 1985. Therefore rehabilitation should be the primary aim of any juvenile justice system rather than one of punishment. The Convention on the Rights of the Child 1990 (CRC) provides the statement of fundamental principles that apply in dealing with juveniles.
- The investigation process:
Investigation of Juvenile by the Police, arrest is always the last resort for investigating authorities and where possible proceedings should be initiated by way of summons (CRC Article 37(b)). This will prevent the possibility of juveniles being held in overcrowded detention facilities along with adult detainees. The following actions are recommended subject to the legal requirements of each state jurisdiction.
Where an arrest cannot be avoided, detention should always be considered as a last resort, and efforts should be made to ensure that bail is granted and that appropriate accommodation for juvenile offenders is available. Where juveniles do not appear at court whilst on bail, this needs to be measured against the adverse effects of their detention in adult facilities. Parents/ guardians should be notified as soon as possible by the investigating authorities and be invited to attend the Police station if the juvenile has been arrested (Rule10; Beijing Rules)
An independent and appropriate third person be present when interviewing a juvenile this will ensure that the Juvenile is not overwhelmed by the investigative process and that his or her rights which will be the same as adults being interviewed are protected subject to the requirements of confidentiality of police investigation when applicable. The police need to be trained and be aware of their responsibilities in relation to investigation, arrest and detention. (Rule 12; Beijing Rules). This can form part of the curriculum in existing police training institution. Juveniles who have committed an offence with one or more adults should be separated at the earliest opportunity from the adult(s). This will prevent undue influence being place on the juvenile by an adult accused. All charges against a juvenile should be heard in the juvenile court. In circumstances where the juvenile is charged with co-offending adults it is suggested that where the Juvenile pleads guilty to the charge(s) then those charges be heard before the juvenile court. Where the juvenile is pleading not guilty then those matters are heard before the adult court with the adult co-offenders if they are also pleading not guilty.
- Detention of Juveniles:
“Every child deprived of liberty shall be separated from adults unless it is considered in the child’s best interest not to do so” (CRC Article 37(c)). Detention should not only be restricted to cells but maybe carried out in other areas of a detention facility such as an office or a medical room. Such a situation should be envisaged by all detaining institutions and appropriate arrangements made accordingly. Zambian officials, amongst other states have been proactive in this area. Specific police stations designated to hold juvenile detainees separately have been resourced. This obviates the expense of building separate detention facilities for juveniles in all police stations. Sensible organization of resources and facilities can achieve many ends without the need for great expenditure.
Diversion programs by the police such as warning process could be put in place for juvenile who commit minor offences rather than having them come before court (Rule 11; Beijing Rules). However this would need to be done with care. There is the potential that members of the police force who are poorly paid or disillusioned may be amenable to accepting bribes to facilitate a warning, which will encourage already prevalent corruption practices. This was a problem in Zambia and the practice of diversion by the police was ultimately stopped. Innovative schemes such as group family counseling have been used which involve the juvenile’s family and in some cases restorative justice initiatives have been used where the victims participate and impress upon the juvenile the harm that has been caused. These initiatives can often lead to the juvenile reconciling with families and victims which is a major step in the rehabilitation of the juvenile. They also represent an opportunity for the victims to start a process of recovery from the harm they have suffered. The court should also consider diversionary dispositions rather than a formal sentencing process. However it should be remembered that in either process the juvenile’s right to defend him/her against any allegations should be respected.
- The court process:
Separate Magistrate/Judge Trained; all States need to consider the appointment of a specific judge/magistrate to head a juvenile court. Ideally such a person should be trained in juvenile justice matters so as to ensure the effective administration of juvenile courts and advocacy within the community. Such an appointment will also promote consistency in the application of the principles that apply in juvenile justice in particular the best interests of the juvenile. An additional member of the judiciary does not need to be appointed or funded. The appointment may be made from the current ranks of the judiciary and a separate juvenile court could be set up within the normal court’s weekly timetable, for example by setting aside a separate day and court room for juvenile cases. This practice would maximize efficiency as the newly appointed head of the juvenile court could consider cases concerning juvenile offenders in the normal courtrooms. This can simply be done by re-organization of workloads without any additional needs or costs.
- Separate Court Space:
Ideally, a separate court facility is required to ensure that a conducive atmosphere is created. The formality of adult courts is not required. So areas such as disused offices would be a suitable juvenile justice facility. For example, in Fiji a disused traffic court which was being used to store old files and equipment was used to house a separate juvenile court. This was done at little cost with the assistance of AUSAID. Similarly in Zambia, at the urging of the Commonwealth Secretariat, it has been proposed to use an abandoned court to house a separate juvenile court. This will be done at little cost because the infrastructure and building are already present. A separate juvenile court may include a court room set up in an informal manner, a separate registry and a supplementary room for dealing with cases by conferencing/diversion involving the magistrate, the juvenile, the juvenile’s family, social welfare and victims if necessary. The facility may also make provision for office space for social welfare departments s that they are immediately available to deliver assessments and assistance when required by the court.
- Separate Court Registry, Record Keeping and Trained Court Staff:
As indicated above, the juvenile facility may also contain a dedicated registry for the court with registry staffs trained in juvenile justice law and procedure (Rule 22; Beijing Rules) who maintain the court records. The records will form part of important statistical information that is used to examine trends in juvenile justice matters. This will in turn enable authorities to be proactive in addressing increasing social problems affecting juveniles rather than being reactive. The need for relevant information on juveniles has been recognized in Rule 30 of the Beijing Rules as necessary for effective planning and policy formulation. The registry staffs need to be trained in juvenile justice principles and not just in court administration. They will then be in a position to give advice on juvenile court procedures and n the principles underpinning the system. Only one or two registry staff needs to be trained and they could be picked from the current ranks of court registry staff. Staff could be provided on a rotation basis, which would then provide training in juvenile justice practice and theory for all court staff.
- Trained Prosecutors:
Prosecutors in juvenile courts need not only to be trained in prosecution techniques, but also in the operation of juvenile courts and the principles that apply to this jurisdiction (Rule 22 Beijing Rules). Police training colleges exist in most States and it is simply a matter of adjusting the existing curriculum to incorporate juvenile justice matters.
- Trial of Juveniles:
It is important to remember that juveniles have the same rights as adults in any hearing before a court, and that the juvenile should be informed of those rights. Care needs to be taken that juveniles are not left as spectators in their own trial and should be addressed directly where appropriate. Accordingly;
- Juvenile needs to be able to understand what is happening in the hearing process and the court procedures should reflect that requirement.
- Plain language should be used.
- The judge/ magistrate needs to explain to the Juvenile the procedure that is about to take place and the juvenile should be asked throughout the proceedings whether he/she understands the process and what is being said.
- Legal representation needs to be provided for all juveniles appearing before a juvenile court. In jurisdictions where lawyers are not readily available, voluntary lawyer schemes can be developed which would at least ensure some form of legal representation.
- The identity of a juvenile must be protected at all times in any proceedings before a juvenile court. (CRC Article 40.2 (vii)). The juvenile’s right to privacy should be respected at all stages of legal proceedings in order to avoid harm being caused by undue publicity or by the process of labeling. (Rule 8.1 Beijing Rules).
- The presence of parents/guardians at any hearings involving a juvenile is necessary. They should be notified of any hearing date and informed that they should attend court.
- All hearings before a juvenile court need to be heard as soon as possible to ensure that the behavior and or the needs of the juvenile are addressed as soon as possible. This will maximize the chances of rehabilitation.
- Sentencing of Juveniles:
The “wellbeing of the Juvenile” and the principle of ‘proportionality” are the primary concerns during the sentencing process (Rule 17; Beijing Rules). Therefore rehabilitation of the juvenile should be at the forefront of any sentence being contemplated, and all alternatives to imprisonment should be considered. Where offence are so serious that only a custodial sentence is warranted, anytime ordered should involve the shortest time possible (CRC Article 37 (b)).
A variety of dispositions need to be available to a court in sentencing juveniles so as to enable the court to avoid institutionalization. (Rule 18 Beijing Rules) these can include care, guidance and supervision orders, probation, community service orders, financial penalties, compensation and restitution, treatment orders, orders to participate in group counseling and similar activities orders concerning foster care and other relevant orders.
“Every child deprived of liberty shall be separated from adults unless it is considered in the child’s best interest not to do so” (CRC Article 37 (c)). Appropriate training programs also need to be provided for the juvenile. Centers should try to avoid combining those juveniles in need of care and protection.
Ultimately this is the greatest cost that a state will face. Staff should be trained in supervising juveniles. Strategies need to be developed to fund separate facilities. However, the development of appropriate alternatives to imprisonment would undercut the need for separation. Social welfare departments therefore need to be well resourced and assisted to provide alternatives to imprisonment. In particular, they should be able to provide follow up support for juveniles even when they have completed any court order to ensure the progress and maintenance of the rehabilitation process.
- Support in the Juvenile Justice System:
Specific juvenile justice legislation needs to be drafted and implemented. This should be drafted and implemented. This should set out the principles that apply to juveniles in the justice system as well as defining who a juvenile is. A minimum age of criminal responsibility should also be set (Rule 4 Beijing Rules). A child is defined as being under the age of 18 years by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 1. The age of criminal responsibility should not be fixed at too low an age level, bearing in mind the facts of emotional, mental and intellectual maturity. (Rule 4, Beijing Rules). International assistance is readily available to assist in the drafting and legislative process. For example, the new juvenile legislation in Samoa has been drafted using a model act designed by Peter Bushier, the Chief Judge of the family Court of New Zealand and previously a judge of the Youth Court of New Zealand with experience of working in the Pacific. The legislation is effective because it is based on and further develops the traditional social structures that exist in the Pacific. Therefore assistance from members of the legal profession with some knowledge about the societal and community structure of the State under consideration is advantageous and should be encouraged where possible.
- Social Welfare Support:
The immediate availability and response of social welfare support is important in the functioning of any juvenile court (Rule 16 Beijing Rules), and social welfare departments need to be properly resourced to achieve this end. Welfare workers should be trained in identifying and assessing issues affecting juveniles as well as considering how to provide support for the juveniles after they have been dealt with by the court. Social welfare departments therefore require access to adequate resources for field work. Although there may be some additional costs, such as the provision of a vehicle to enable welfare workers to carry out their work, much of this could be achieved through the proper allocation of resources and the development of supporting networks within the government, private business organizations and NGOS which could quickly assist in providing support (Rule 25 Beijing Rules). Such a system has been developed and tried in the Ba region of Fiji by an individual local magistrate who is committed to the principles of juvenile justice. This has resulted in a decrease in offending because the community as a whole has provided ongoing support, and this has been achieved with minimal cost. Many developing States have a comparative advantage in that traditional village and social structures are still in place that could be used to provide the necessary support that social welfare department would provide a valuable form of support in juvenile justice matters at minimal cost.
- Legal Representation:
Lawyers, wherever possible, need to be available to advise and represent juveniles in court (CRC Article 37 (d)). Where there is a lack of lawyers, Law societies and/or Bar Associations can be organized to provide this assistance on a voluntary basis as part of their support of the legal system and the community.
- Public Awareness Campaigns:
These campaigns may be organized to ensure that the community understands the principles that apply to juvenile justice and therefore ensure public support for juvenile justice as well as placing pressure on governments to support juvenile justice initiatives.
In too many situations vocal groups are advocating that juveniles be treated in the same manner as adults, which would invariably frustrate the rehabilitation of a juvenile. This has further repercussions of repeated and probably more serious offending. The principles that apply to juvenile justice are not only designed to protect and rehabilitate the juvenile but also protect the public from ongoing offending.
These campaigns can also be directed at juveniles to ensure that they understand that certain actions are wrong and have consequences for themselves as well as their victims, potential or actual. Campaigns in schools and other youth organisations would be appropriate.
- Juvenile Support Groups:
To ensure that a juvenile justice system operates effectively and efficiently, support is required. This can include judges/magistrates in charge of juvenile courts, social welfare departments, police, NGOs that provide support for juveniles and other community organizations such as schools, and youth groups that work with juveniles. Representation from business groups would also be beneficial as they could also act as a conduit in providing the public voice on juvenile issues. An example of this being done is Barbados where the magistrate in charge of juvenile matters convenes regular meetings of such stakeholders to examine how to support the juvenile justice system. The establishment of regional associations, which can address issues within juvenile justice systems such as the SPCYCC, should be considered as they can provide valuable support for states that are developing their juvenile justice systems. This can be provided by way of advice, mentoring and material assistance as they bring together not only the judiciary but also numerous support groups such as UNICEF, donors and the Commonwealth Secretariat. Such an organization would represent a valuable resource in developing juvenile justice systems.
- Statistical Information to be kept on Juveniles that identifies :
The court needs to be provided with sufficient resources to enable it to compile statistics from its records. This record would be in addition to statistics of other authorities such as social welfare departments and the police, and would assist in identifying current trends in juvenile justice issues. This would enable authorities to be more proactive in preventing problems rather than simply responding to problems as they arise (Rule 30; Beijing Rules).Statistical information is currently compiled by courts and other authorities so there is no significant additional cost in this process. It is just a matter of collating all this information on juveniles and developing conclusions by analysing this information. It programmes can be developed to do this and with the assistance of donor agencies or private business donations this is readily achievable at little extra cost to a state.
- Juveniles In Need Of Care And Protection:
It is a matter for each jurisdiction to decide if juveniles in need of care and protection are dealt with by a juvenile court or a family court. In either case it is important that the juvenile is treated as someone in need of care and protection and not as an offender. Ideally therefore, juveniles in need of care should not be accommodated in the same facilities as juvenile offenders although it is recognized that this is an additional cost to the government. If this cannot be avoided, then efforts should be made to ensure that the needs of those in need of care and protection are met and that they are not treated as part of a group of juvenile offenders.Alternative facilities need to be provided such as foster care, or the juvenile should be allowed to return to the family under supervision and assistance orders (CRC Article 20.3).The juvenile has the right to legal representation and the right to speak in any trial or hearing (CRC Article 12.2). This would enable the child in need of care to have some say in the manner in which he or she is cared for by the state, for example, to be able to say that they do not wish to be separated from siblings who may also be in need of care. A periodic review of juveniles in care needs to be conducted to ensure that juveniles are not kept in care beyond the necessity of their case (CRC Article 25).
- Juveniles As Victims:
Special arrangements need to be developed in dealing with juvenile victims of crime. Trained investigators and medical examiners should be available as well as trained prosecutors, court staff and members of the judiciary. In particular, special arrangements can be made for juvenile victims to give evidence in another room within the courthouse using video links, where considered reasonable and necessary. The victim would therefore avoid experiencing the unnecessary trauma of facing the offender in the courtroom, which could adversely affect the quality of their evidence. Such technology is now commonplace and relatively inexpensive although a cheaper alternative such as screens around the witness box could be used in the courtroom as well. Pre-trial support to juvenile victims needs to be provided by prior explanation of the legal process. The prosecution may also apply for permission for a trusted person to sit with the juvenile victim during the course of giving evidence. However, this will be subject to objection by the defence in which case the court should then decide upon the applications having regard to the well-being of the victims. Cases that involve juveniles as victims, especially in sexual offences, need to be dealt with expeditiously by the police, and the courts should ensure that the juvenile does not have to wait unreasonable periods of time to give evidence. Unfortunately defence counsels have been known to delay the hearing of cases, and then argue that the juvenile’s evidence is suspect because of the length of time that has elapsed since the alleged commission of the offence. Delays are also used as a means of indirect pressure on the juvenile victim to withdraw allegations because of the psychological burden on them of having these matters unresolved for long periods of time. The reasons underlying any application for an adjournment need therefore to be examined carefully and resisted unless it would be in the interests of justice to grant it. States need to take all appropriate measures to promote the physical and psychological recovery and social integration of a juvenile victim (CRC Article 39). In all of these matters the privacy of the juvenile is to be respected.
PANACEA TO THE END OF JUVENILE VICES
A core function of the Juvenile Justice System is to prevent reoffending by adolescents who have committed acts that would be considered crimes if committed by adults. The most effective way to prevent juvenile delinquency has indisputably been to assist children and their families early on. To this end, the following key components are available to assist in curbing juvenile vices.
Educational programs have the underlying intent of encouraging hope and opening up opportunities for young people.
Government should subsidies education as low as possible so as to enable children from less to do families to also attain their future ambition and dreams through education.
- Community involvement:
Girls scouts, Boy scouts, Church Bridgade and other educative youth groups headed by respectable personnels should involve youths within the community with their activites. Involvement in community groups provide youth with an opportunity to interact in a safe social environment.
Recreational activities should be of great benefits to adolescents because they fill unsupervised after-school hours. This instead of teens to be holed up in their technological atmosphere, parents as well as schools should mandate teenagers to participate in outdoors activities. Apart from the physical liberation of the moment it will also help them psychologically and intellectually. Through such activities, positive friendships can be developed and it may assist children in later years. The youth programs should be designed to fit the personalities and skills of different children and may include sports, dancing, music, rock climbing, drama, karate, bowling, art, and other activities.
- Bullying Prevention Program:
The Bullying Prevention Program should be put into place in both elementary and junior high schools. An anonymous student questionnaires should be filed out often to students so as to enlighten the teachers and administrators to who is doing the bullying, the kids who are most frequently victimized, and where the bullying often occurs. Once teachers and administrators have learned about how and where bullying occurs at their school, they can set up class rules and facilitate discussions that address the problem. Individual bullies and victims should receive independent counseling.
- Seeking for Therapy:
Families with recalcitrant children should try as much as possible to be on a Family Therapy program which can help their teenagers on probation as well as the families. A family therapist works with the family and helps individual family members see how they can positively motivate change in their home. The therapist should attempts to break down resistance and encourages the family to believe that negative communication and interaction patterns can be changed. Also, family members should be taught new ways to approach day-to-day situations; they are to be shown how to change their behaviors and responses to situations.
It is important for society to prioritize juvenile delinquency prevention programmes over measures designed to punish or treat juvenile offenders. Programmes designed for reform of criminal justice system that fail to address the structural roots of crime and delinquency will merely aid continuous repression of victims of structurally induced socio-political and economic disabilities and exclusion.
Hope Olajumoke Fajana is a graduate of Law. Having completed her Bar part 2 program at the Nigerian Law School, her areas of interest include legal research, life coaching and writing.
She can be reached via email@example.com
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