Senate Passes Special Legislation to Deal with How Children Who Break the Law are Handled

Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Senator Ruel Reid.

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Tuesday July 17, 2018
– The Senate has given the nod to a Child Diversion Bill which makes special provisions for dealing with children who are alleged, accused or recognised to have infringed the law in Jamaica without resorting to the formal judicial proceedings.

The objectives of the Bill, which was piloted by Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Senator Ruel Reid, are: ensuring that every child in conflict with the law is treated in a manner that recognises and upholds human dignity and worth; diverting the child away from engaging in deviant and delinquent behaviours; and instilling in the child respect for the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

In his contribution to the debate, Government Senator Charles Sinclair said that as a party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Jamaica has a duty to put measures in place to ensure children who are accused of breaking the law get legal help and fair treatment in the justice system.

He said the emphasis on reform and rehabilitation through the programme which a child who breaches the law must participate in, is commendable, noting that it can be tailored to the specific needs of the individual.

Sinclair added that proper parenting and the implementation of wholesome values and attitude are critical components in steering young people from wrongdoing and the “eye for an eye” mentality.

For her part, Opposition Senator Sophia Fraser Binns said the Bill would assist in transforming the lives of children especially those who come into conflict with the law.

“There is overwhelming evidence…that children who generally have to interface with the court or the justice system hardly ever end up with a positive result,” she said, adding that the legislative measure will also provide psychosocial support to children.

The Bill will also see to the establishment of a Child Diversion Office; Child Diversion Committees; and a Child Diversion Oversight Committee. It also addresses the structure of the Child Diversion programme, the circumstances under which a child is to be referred, among other things.

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