Understanding the Law
June 12, 2009
Children in Conflict with the law – Part III

Children who are alleged to have committed offences have to appear for an initial enquiry conducted by the Child Justice Committee to determine whether diversion should be adopted or whether a trial has to be conducted.{{more}}

A child could be brought before the Committee because he or she has committed an offence given under three schedules of the Act.

Schedule one

Schedule one carries minor crimes and includes such offences as:

Assault where there is no grievous bodily harm; malicious injury where damages does not exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000.00); trespass; offences related to illicit possession of dependency drugs, up to five thousand dollars; theft, where the value does not exceed five thousand dollars; any statutory offence that does not exceed five thousand dollars; conspiracy, incitement or an attempt at the offences stated above.

Schedule two

Schedule two includes assault where there is grievous bodily harm; arson; robbery other than that with aggravating circumstances and where the amount involved does not exceed more than one hundred thousand dollars; drug related matters that do not exceed one hundred thousand dollars; forgery or fraud; any statutory offence; conspiracy, incitement or any attempt where the amount involved does not exceed one hundred thousand dollars.

Schedule three

This schedule covers the most serious crimes such as murder, rape and robbery with aggravating circumstances or involving vehicular theft; indecent assault, and on a person under eighteen years; offences against the Drug trafficking (and Misuse of) Drugs Act where the value is more than one hundred thousand dollars; conspiracy or incitement or attempt to commit an offence.

Court Proceeding

A child who is in conflict with the law and who is brought before the Court will be informed of the nature of the allegations against him or her. The proceeding shall be conducted in an informal manner in order to encourage maximum participation of the child and his or her parents or appropriate adult. Where there is no attorney at law or where the child does not want the parent to be present or the parent cannot be found, the police officer in charge of the investigation must make a request for an independent observer.

Confessions or admissions made by the child will not be admissible as evidence unless they were given in the presence of the parent or appropriate adult or an attorney-at-law.

The child must be treated humanely. Handcuffs should only be used in exceptional circumstances. A child should not be held in a holding cell with adults, neither should he or she be transported in any vehicle with adult prisoners. Consideration must be given to the age of the child.

Either the Director of Public Prosecutions or the attorney for the court can make a request for an evaluation of the child and such person designated should provide a report for the court within thirty days of the time the judge makes his order. Consideration will be given to the emotional, cognitive, psychological and social development of the child.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.

E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com