The Senate on Friday (July 13) passed the Child Diversion Bill with 13 amendments.
The legislation seeks to enable the implementation of child-diversion measures in dealing with children who come into conflict with the law.
The Bill was piloted by Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid.
In his contribution to the debate, Government Senator Charles Sinclair said the passage of the Bill would signal the country’s commitment in ensuring that every child in conflict with the law, is treated in a manner that recognises and upholds human dignity.
He said as a party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Jamaica has a duty to put measures in place to deal with children who are accused of breaking the law, as they have the right to legal help and fair treatment in the justice system.
Senator Sinclair said the emphasis on reform and rehabilitation through the child diversion programme which the child must participate in is commendable, as it establishes a programme that can be tailored to the specific needs of the child.
He said proper parenting and the implementation of wholesome values and attitude are critical components in steering young people from wrong doing and the “eye for an eye” mentality.
For her part, Opposition Senator Sophia Fraser Binns said the Bill which is timely will 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.
Child diversion is a process of implementing measures for dealing with children who are alleged, accused or recognised to have infringed the penal law, without resorting to the formal judicial proceedings.
The main objectives of the Bill 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.
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.
The legislation was passed in the House of Representatives in May.