Review on juvenile laws should focus on root causes, says child rights advocate

12-Jan-2018 Intellasia | New Straits Times | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Child rights advocate Sharmila Sekaran welcomed a review to the existing juvenile laws with a focus on rehabilitation.

She said it was high time that the focus is brought back to the juvenile offenders’ through the review instead of having stakeholders’ issues dominate the narrative.

Sharmila cited that the review should get to the root causes be it the lack of parental guidance (attention) or discipline at home or the fact they are not academically inclined.

She also said that review should look into the prosecution, imposing negligence charges on parents, whose children turn to crime due to neglect.

Sharmilla was responding to deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s statement that there is a need for the review on laws related to juvenile offenders.

Zahid, who is also Home minister, had said that juvenile offenders should be rehabilitated and not imprisoned. He also acknowledged that existing laws related to juvenile offenders could be improved with an emphasis placed on rehabilitation.

Sharmila noted that a proper review would help Malaysia improve its standards on rehabilitating juvenile offenders and bring it closer to the levels of progressive systems adopted in countries like Iceland, Finland, the United Kingdom and states like Queensland, Australia.

She said these countries practiced approaches dubbed “diversions” from the court system, so that children would not be criminalised.

“Moving forward I also think that we should adopt youth justice conferencing and release them on good behaviour bonds,” she added.

She illustrated that the conferencing is a mediation that involves the young offenders with their parents as well as the affected parties or victims and their guardians together with a state representative.

“They will sit down together and attempt to help offenders understand why he or she is trouble and may face charges. Most of the time the system does not emphasize this.”

She said in the mediation, the state representative, who should be an expert such as a psychologist, or criminologist would decide whether the child need to be institutionalised or can be released.

She said the Henry Gurney method of rehabilitation was ideal as it focused on education especially vocational modules for those who are not academically inclined.

Sharmilla also believed that the reason why the school had negligible rates of recidivism was because the school provided consistent discipline and monitoring that was probably absent at home.

Zahid had earlier said that the curricula at Henry Gurney schools were “very effective”.


Category: Malaysia

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