Child Offenders to Face Alternative Justice System

2532 Views Mbale, Eastern Region, Uganda

In short
Juvenile offenders will no longer be tried in the formal courts according to the new reforms being introduced by the Justice Law and Order Sector—JLOS.

Juvenile offenders will no longer be tried in the formal courts according to the new reforms being introduced by the Justice Law and Order Sector—JLOS.

The reform program, which is to be implemented by the Center for Justice Studies and Innovations, is aimed at ensuring that juvenile offenders are not made to face the formal justice system where they appear in court and are sent to remand homes.

Lillian Bucyana, the Mbale Chief Magistrate explains that the three year program that will be piloted in the chief magistrate’s courts of Kitgum, Mbale, Kampala, Fort Portal, Amuru, Gulu and Nwoya, will ensure that children who commit crimes are instead referred back to religious and cultural leaders for arbitration.

 Bucyana says the religious and cultural leaders will be empowered by JLOS to handle juvenile issues in order to avoid a situation where young children are locked up in police cells over petty crimes.

She says the role of the traditional and cultural chiefs will be to arbitrate in the conflicts involving children, counsel and reintegrate them back into the community.

Rhona Babwetwera, the JLOS Children’s Coordinator, says a committee comprised of religious, cultural and chief magistrates will ensure the success of the program. She says the group will sensitize the communities to desist from taking street children to police but to refer them to cultural and religious leaders.

She also says courts will no longer handle issues involving children who are accused of stealing petty things.