In Summary
  • Pre-juvenile preventive action with a pro-active approach is the way to go.

  • Juveniles are more capable of change than adults and their actions are less likely to be evidence of “irretrievably depraved character”.
  • Suspicious growing children should be isolated and be given special guidance, education and care for their reformation.

Mankind owes children the best it has to give, in the spirit and letter of The Geneva Declaration on the Rights of the Child. Juveniles’ actions or omissions mirror the society. It would be a justified cause for tantrums to move from a rosy cradle to a school saddle with rules and routine.

But that is no justification for a child to commit a crime. School has, for ages, been deemed a safe haven for children. Not anymore, based on the current illegal happenings and threats perpetrated by both the teachers and pupils.

LAST RESORT

In light of recent incidents such as rape allegations, a schoolboy’s genitalia damaged by corporal punishment, a child dying from being caned, school children’s disappearance and numerous strikes, assaults and arsons, and with several children’s trials looming due to student unrest, this tide of lawlessness should be stopped.

The Constitution, in Article 53(1)(f), provides that a child should not be detained except as a measure of last resort and, when detained, be held for the shortest appropriate period separate from adults and in conditions that take account of its gender and age. Article 53(2) stipulates that a child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child.

PENAL CODE

For a crime to be validly proven, the malicious or criminal act and the pre-meditation or motive ought to coincide and the burden of proof of beyond a reasonable doubt discharged. Notably, in juvenile justice, capacity is not an element of criminal liability but forms part of the culpability. However, age is fundamental.

The Penal Code places criminal liability from age eight; however, this is often criticised because in most international laws it is 12. The UN Standard Minimum Rules for Administration of Juvenile Justice Rule 4.1 states that the beginning of the age for criminal liability ought not to be placed too low an age level, considering the mental and intellectual faculty development.

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