Juvenile amendment bill for house in October
By Leroy Smith
The Juvenile Offenders (Amendment) Bill which seeks to review categories of offences for which children can be charged, will be laid in the National Assembly before the end of the year.
According to Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan, there are several minute details that are being worked on before the draft bill is sent to Cabinet for approval.
The current Bill which was passed in the National Assembly on May 24, 2007, and assented to on May 31, 2007, was described by the Minister as penalising persons for being poor. He noted that a number of the acts listed as offences punishable by the law are triggered by economic circumstances and those have to be tackled differently and immediately.
“It is almost ten years in the making and also to have a more modern of dealing with the Juvenile; delete truancy as a crime, delinquency, because these are all economic crimes and these young people shouldn’t be penalised for being poor and going on the streets and so on,” the Minister related.
During a consultation hosted earlier in the year, stakeholders suggested that the age for Criminal responsibility be raised from 10 to 14. There was also a call for intervention from religious organisations for first-time offenders in terms of counselling before putting the matter before the courts.
He gave the assurance that this will be done in September, after which the bill will be tabled in the National Assembly when the house reconvenes its business in October.
As it is now, the Juvenile Offenders Act causes penalties for adults and in some cases children in cases such as regular absenteeism from school, failure to attend school altogether, involving in child labour and other offences and actions which deprive children their right to an education, socialising, freedom and other liberties.