‘It should never happen’: Legal Aid Council bats for lawyer-less children in courtrooms

Executive Director of the Legal Aid Council, Hugh Faulkner. (Photo contributed, JIS)

The Legal Aid Council is reminding parents and guardians that no child should go before the court without legal representation, including children deemed uncontrollable.

“Although a child being uncontrollable is not a criminal offence, we provide a lawyer to intervene, because if a child comes before the court as uncontrollable, a judge may send that child to a juvenile correctional facility,” Executive Director of the Legal Aid Council (LAC), Hugh Faulkner, contended.

The detention or institutionalisation of a child is a measure of last resort in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Faulkner explained that the Ministry of Justice actively seeks to safeguard the rights of children facing the justice system.

He noted that the Child Diversion programme being implemented by the Ministry of Justice is an excellent tool, designed to protect the rights of children who come in conflict with the law, while ensuring appropriate redress for the matter.

“Coming before the criminal court involves many processes, some of which a child may not be able to fully comprehend. When a child is taken into custody, arrangements for question-and-answer in the presence of the child’s parents are made. An identification parade may be organised, after which a preliminary court date, criminal inquiry date or a trial date may be assigned. This is a lot of time for a child whose main focus should be on school,” Faulkner told JIS News.

The National Child Diversion Programme is a drive by the Ministry of Justice to reduce the number of children who are charged with offences and exposed to the formal criminal justice system.