New juvenile legislation to save judicial system time, expenses

The National Assembly on Tuesday concluded debates, and passed the amendments to the Juvenile Justice Act, which is expected to significantly reduce the backlog in cases and hefty expenses faced by the judiciary.

The amendments are now expected to see juveniles, for very specific cases, to be charged jointly with adults.

Minister of Culture, Youth, and Sport, Charles Ramson, MP

According to the amendments tabled in early April, if a juvenile has been accused of committing an indictable offence with an adult and, “the offence cannot be disposed of summarily, the juvenile may be charged jointly with the adult.”

Minister of Culture, Youth, and Sport, Charles Ramson, MP, explained that it is important for government to ensure that there is a strong “deterrence” to committing serious crimes that fall under those indictable charges; murder, treason, rape, and manslaughter.

“Those…elements are the elements that affect deterrence to which every government…among their top priorities, is to protect the society. That has always been a high priority,” he explained.

Rebutting the argument of Opposition Member of Parliament Khemraj Ramjattan, who claimed that the simple amendments tear down the “architecture” of the 177-page legislation, Ramson referred to the insertion of the same proposed amendment which will continue to “employ such measures…for securing the rights of the juvenile under this Act.”

“The amendment is necessary for us to have in the proper administration of justice, not new to the many parts of the world, and it is based on the representations that have been received, having introduced a new form of administration of justice relating to juveniles,” Ramson highlighted.

Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr Vindhya Persaud, M.P

Meanwhile, Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr Vindhya Persaud, M.P, noted that there is no intention to remove or jeopardise the rights of juveniles in the furtherance of this law.

“At no point in this amendment are we removing the rights of the juvenile. Would we rather that nothing be done? Would we rather that persons affected by the offences not have justice done? I am pretty sure that as every member would have considered this legislation it would not have escaped them that the juvenile would be bereft of the rights that are enshrined within the entire act,” Dr Persaud told the House.

According to Section 3 (b) (i) of the principal Act which restricts juveniles from appearing before the Court with an adult, the explanatory memorandum of the amendments highlight that the proposed amendment will create an exception.

“The current criminal justice system often results in witnesses testifying twice, leading to a significant increase in judicial time and expense,” the explanatory memorandum states.