National policy to divert children from the formal justice system being developed


The Ministry of Justice is developing a National Child Diversion Policy that will establish and sustain a justice system in which the best interests of the child is paramount and the rule of law is maintained.
This initiative is a part of the National Plan of Action on Child Justice being spearheaded by the Ministry of Justice. The Implementation and Monitoring Committee for the National Plan of Action is chaired by Special Projects Consultant in the Ministry of Justice, Ruth Carey.
Speaking at the Resident Magistrates Training Seminar in Child Rights and International Protocols, held at Breezes Runaway Bay Resort and Spa on Saturday November 13, Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Senator Dorothy Lightbourne expressed concern about the alarming rate at which children are coming in contact with the justice system both as offenders and victims, which she said was a reflection of the critical social issues affecting our children today.
The Seminar is the first of a series of capacity building training planned under the National Child Protection Programme.
“The National Child Protection Programme through the National Plan of Action on Child Justice seeks to bring about necessary changes to address the incidence of violence by children and, at the same time, relieve the burden on the formal judicial system,” Minister Lightbourne said.
The National Plan of Action for Child Justice is a collaborative effort between the ministries of Justice, National Security, Health, Education, and Youth Sports and Culture; along with other Government agencies.
She further informed that a Child Diversion Policy is being developed as a governance mechanism to ensure the success of two of the strategic objectives of the Plan of Action, specifically; to promote diversion as a tool of restorative justice and establish diversion committees in each parish.
Child Diversion parish committees will be established to assess cases that will be diverted from the formal justice system. The proposed composition of each parish board will include: a Justice of the peace, a Probation officer, a Children’s officer, a Minister of religion, a School guidance counselor, and a child under the age of 18 years old.
Additionally, Sen. Lightbourne informed that child diversion is a tool that has been successfully implemented and is being successfully utilized in many other jurisdictions, including the United Kingdom, South Africa, Canada, Ireland and Australia. She expressed confidence that the diversion efforts will be successful in Jamaica.
“The establishment of a National Plan of Action for Child Justice will enable Jamaica to more compliant with a number of international treaties on Child Justice including the Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (the Beijing rules) and the United Nations guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency, to which Jamaica is a signatory,” Sen. Lightbourne added.

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