Child Justice bill recommendations get thumbs up

By Kenias Chivuzhe

THERE was a heated debate at St Dominic’s High School in Mutare this Wednesday during public consultations on the Child Justice Bill, with calls for the establishment of a separate justice system for children taking centre stage.

The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs visited several schools in Manicaland for consultations on the Child Justice Bill which was gazetted on the 3rd of December last year.

Students at St Dominic’s high school in Mutare are in full support of the idea to increase the minimum criminal age of responsibility from 7 to 12 or above and the adoption of a separate justice system for children.

“We support the proposals to increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 7 years to 12 years, 12 years is actually still low, we propose that the age be increased to 16 years,” said students who spoke to ZBC News.

“We are against placing children in the same prisons as adults as that can further harden them as criminals than rehabilitate them. We propose the children be sent to rehabilitation centres instead of prisons. There is a need to avail the necessary infrastructure for them before placing them in prisons.

“The law should consider that children can commit crimes out of the influence of old people and it is, therefore, critical to give them special treatment.”

Those who opposed the proposals noted that justice should be delivered to all regardless of age to deter young people from engaging in crime.

“If one commits an offence, he or she must face incarceration for the crimes they committed. If we don’t do that, we are likely to see the crime rate among children increasing and it’s not good for society,” said Honourable Joshua Murire, the Portfolio Committee Chairperson.

Legislators spoke on the scope of the bill and its intentions.

“The law is critical in protecting the children’s rights as it was discovered that in arresting children and incarcerating them, several rights will be breached. This is a constitutional obligation and we are taking views from the affected,” said Honourable Dexter Nduna, committee member.

“We are happy that the children are freely airing their views on the bill. So far, the majority are in support of the objective and the focus of the bill. The response by the children to the bill is overwhelming.”

The bill seeks to provide protection of children’s rights and provide access to justice as enshrined in the constitution.