Child justice: Money not the key

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By Tumusiime Kabwende Deo


PADER - "Money is a necessary resource, but not a prerequisite in delivering justice for children" , says Valentine Namakula, the Executive Director Centre for Justice Studies and Innovation  (CJSI). She made the remarks while addressing Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS) partners at the Pader district court hall. From Kampala to Kabarole to Kyenjojo, Amuru to Gulu, Soroti to Buduuda, Moroto to Pader, the challenges surrounding child justice are similar and immense. According to Valentine, while waiting for funds to be secured, system actors must explore  low cost alternatives to deliver justice. She sighted the fact that it does not require money for a police officer for example to divert a case of a child offender  or a magistrate to prioritize children's cases. 

Pader is one of the first pilot sites for the Justice for Children program of JLOS, aimed at ensuring expeditious handling of child related cases. However, according to statistics presented during the district review meeting held today, a backlog of about 930 child related cases exist in the justice system. Like other districts, Pader decried the rising cases of defilement, coupled with loopholes in the age verification exercise.  
Grade 1 Magistrate Edward Okot David, said that sometimes their hands are tied especially when cases are received clearly indicating  that suspects are above 18. This was in reaction to a concern over juveniles committed to adult prisons. In practical terms however, Pader has no remand facility for children, and offenders must be traveled to the Gulu Regional remand home, which is about 150 Kilometers away.

The meeting advised the system actors among others, to map out non-state actors who could offer additional support. Most importantly, the need to divert petty cases away from the system was underscored as a means to reduce case backlog.  The DPC of Pader Sabiti Ambrose highlighted the rising cases of child trafficking and street children. In a bid to address these cases, the former J4C Coordinator Mbale Rhona Babwetera advised for regular inspection   of all public vehicles crossing out of the district to ensure that all children on board are accompanied by a relative. This, in a bid to reduce on the number of petty offenders who, when arrested, stretch the little available resources, in addition to the risks they are exposed to in detention.


Published: September 9, 2014

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