Opposition wants fine-tuning of Juvenile Justice Bill

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Opposition Parliamentarians Dr Frank Anthony and Dr Vindhya Persaud have lauded the modernisation of the laws governing juvenile justice but called for the proposed legislation to be further fine-tuned before passed in the National Assembly.

Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan said the Juvenile Justice Bill 2018 aims to provide inhumane alternatives for young lawbreakers.

“We do not want to make a jailhouse nation of our young people, we want to minimize the harsh punishment meted to our young offenders, which then stigmatizes them for life. We want to maximize their education, rehabilitation and reintegration into society,” Ramjattan stated.

The Bill proposes a multitude of changes to the juvenile justice system, including stipulations that a child below the age of 14 will not be capable of being guilty of committing a crime.

But former Youth Minister Dr Frank Anthony said there needs to be clearer provisions in place to deal with children under the age of 14 who commit serious crimes.

Dr. Vindhya Persaud

He said in Scotland, where the age of criminal responsibility is eight-years-old, there are special institutions and other measures in place to deal with children under that limit who commit serious offences.

Dr Vindhya Persaud, the shadow Social Protection Minister, said the Bill also needs to outline the conditions under which children should be questioned by those in authority given their susceptibility to being easily manipulated.

Among other things, the opposition parliamentarian said it is crucial for the Bill to establish how the media should report on youth crimes.

Dr Persaud said not only should there be guidelines in what information the media could print/broadcast, but the Bill should also include penalties.

The Opposition MPs hailed the Bill as transformational and vowed to support its passage in the National Assembly.

But they urged that there be further fine-tuning to ensure there is no ambiguity or loopholes when it comes to dealing with children who are at odds with the law.

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