Historic Juvenile Justice Bill passed archaic and oppressive colonial laws abolished
DPI, GUYANA, Thursday, April 26, 2018
Juveniles who go astray will no longer be criminalized as the long awaited and ground-breaking Juvenile Justice Bill was passed this evening during the 87th sitting of the National Assembly.
This law will pave the way for Guyana to fulfil various international treaty obligations but more importantly ushers in a new milestone in the nation’s journey towards Juvenile Justice Reform.
The Bill, Minister Ramjattan explained, covered the legal actions that could be taken once juveniles commit an offence and gives those committed or incarcerated a second chance to redeem themselves. It was, in part, intended to fill the gaps identified by social services needs he further added.
“It also provided for community service among ‘diversionary measures’ instead of merely being placed in custody. The minister admitted that the government could not come up with the perfect Bill but stated, “This spent 14 years under the PPP administration and three years under ours. Why don’t we get on with it?”.
Attorney General Basil Williams alluded to the measures in the Bill that speak to the mode of dealing with those juveniles found guilty of offences. The Bill states that, “where a juvenile is found guilty of an offence under any law the finding of guilt shall not be recorded as a conviction.”
In her support of the bill, Minister of Social Protection, Amna Ally noted that the measures will ensure access to facilities for the custody, education and rehabilitation for juvenile offenders, protect them from harm and increase their chances of a better life.
The Social Protection Minister noted that some 70 percent of the juvenile offenders incarcerated at the New Opportunity Corps (NOC) are merely products of their environments, facing problems such as poverty, family unit break up, lack of education, unemployment, peer pressure, lack of parental supervision, addiction, violence and abuse.
The Ministry of Social Protection, Minister Ally assured will play an integral role in positively changing the lives of children through guidance and counselling and the other alternatives to incarceration as listed in the Bill.
Her ministry will also commence work on the over 500 cases of juvenile delinquency and embark on capacity building of Non-Governmental Organisations with similar objectives.
By: Stacy Carmichael/Paul McAdam