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  • The National Child Diversion Programme, which deals with children who have come in conflict with the law, is to be fully rolled out by November this year.
  • This was disclosed by State Minister for National Security, Hon. Rudyard Spencer, at a stakeholders’ sensitisation session on the programme at the University of the West Indies Regional Headquarters in St. Andrew on Wednesday (July 10)
  • He said that the initiative is being implemented by the National Security and Justice Ministries.

The National Child Diversion Programme, which deals with children who have come in conflict with the law, is to be fully rolled out by November this year.

This was disclosed by State Minister for National Security, Hon. Rudyard Spencer, at a stakeholders’ sensitisation session on the programme at the University of the West Indies Regional Headquarters in St. Andrew on Wednesday (July 10)

He said that the initiative is being implemented by the National Security and Justice Ministries.

Child diversion is the process of implementing measures dealing with children who are alleged, accused or recognised to have infringed the law, without resorting to formal judicial proceedings.

The national programme aims to, among other things, reduce the number of children who are charged with offences, and exposed to the formal criminal justice system as a result; and increase the use of diversionary programmes that rehabilitate children as a response to crime and wrongdoing.

It also seeks to mandate State agencies and encourage non-governmental and community-based organisations to become active participants in providing services and programmes to children; protect the rights of the child in keeping with international instruments and protocols; and empower communities to take a more active role in dealing with child offenders with antisocial behaviours.

Mr. Spencer said that by implementing the programme, the Government is “taking a more practical approach to rehabilitate children as a response to crime and deviant behaviour”.

He said research has shown that “simply locking them up… does not reform, but hardens the individual, thereby increasing the risk of reoffending”.

He noted that the move will also ensure that detention and institutionalisation of children “become a last resort in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child”.

Mr. Spencer said that the programme will incorporate the use of restorative justice, and a care plan with specific treatment guidelines for each child will be designed.

“We are working to ensure that at least one probation officer from each parish sits on the Child Diversion Parish Committee,” he added.

In his remarks, Minister of Justice, Hon. Delroy Chuck, said that the National Child Diversion Programme is part of Government’s mission to ensure that Jamaica has a first-class justice system.

He informed that Cabinet Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, the Police high command, and Custodes have also been sensitised, and there are plans to speak to other key justice stakeholders.

“Then, we are going to be going into all the parishes, where we are hoping to incorporate all the stakeholders in the justice system, especially the JPs,” he said.

The Child Diversion Programme is being introduced under the Child Diversion Act, which was passed last year.

The stakeholder sensitisation session sought to discuss the technicalities of the programme and potential gaps and shortcomings, so that when the programme is implemented, it will successfully achieve all targets.