Juvenile Justice Bill passed

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…paves way for the abolishment of truancy, wandering as crimes

The long awaited and ground-breaking Juvenile Justice Bill was passed on Thursday evening during the 87th sitting of the National Assembly.

Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan

This law will pave the way for Guyana to fulfill various international treaty obligations but more importantly ushers in a new milestone in the nation’s journey towards Juvenile Justice Reform.

Although throwing its support behind the Juvenile Justice Reform Bill, the parliamentary Opposition has said it still has some reservations in relation to some aspects of the bill and was therefore requesting that it be fine-tuned.

Following the second reading of the Bill in Parliament on Thursday by Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan, parliamentarians from both sides of the House were given the opportunity to debate the merit of the Bill.

Opposition Member of Parliament, Dr Frank Anthony said while he is not opposed to the Bill, he has identified some shortcomings which he would hope could be addressed before it is passed.

“There are some little things that we see as contradictions, what can be I think ironed out, because the measures here are all good measures and this is a direction we meant to go,” he told the House.

However, he said the small issues that need to be ironed out could be done so quickly, if the Minister would consider that the Bill be taken to the Special Select Committee.

Dr Frank Anthony

One of Dr Anthony’s contentions is the need to have clearer provisions in place to deal with children under the age of 14 who commit serious crimes.

In making reference to other countries, the MP said in Scotland, the criminal responsibility is eight years old. However, he noted that there are special institutions and other measures in place to deal with children under that limit who commit serious offences.

Despite these concerns, the former Youth Minister nevertheless described the Bill as comprehensive. However, he reminded that the Bill was first piloted by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Government.

Meanwhile, Minister Ramjattan who opened the debate. said it will provide a better quality of life for young offenders, as the Government continues to work towards strengthening its response to youths.

“In this day and age, we have to provide a humane alternative to incarceration for young lawbreakers. This certainly will help them avoid falling deeper into a life of crime,” Minister Ramjattan said.

The Juvenile Justice Bill would see the abolishment of truancy and wandering as crimes. The Bill would also pave the way for more ‘stringent’ methods when dealing with juvenile matters.

The draft Bill was conceived in 2004 under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic Administration with the support and input from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The first draft was produced in 2007 after a series of consultations and submissions by stakeholders, inclusive of the Rights of the Child Commission; however, progress was delayed and efforts to revive the process began in 2014.

The 11-part Bill makes provisions for the establishment of facilities to enable the rehabilitation and education of juvenile offenders.

It seeks to amend and consolidate the law in relation to criminal justice for juveniles and make provision for proceedings with respect to young offenders and provide for the establishment of facilities for the custody, education, and the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders.

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