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Accessible justice system in any democratic state is a prerequisite for sustainable development. Therefore for a country to develop rapidly, that country must ensure that premium is been laid on the justice system, especially the juvenile justice system which caters for the interest of children.
A country cannot survive so easily when it has a very feeble juvenile justice system. From the lay person perspective on the word ‘justice’ is when some one’s right is been observed and accorded to the fullest without any prejudice or biasness.
If a country like Sierra Leone is to meet the Millennium Development Goal on the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) by 2015, it must primarily focus on the kind of justice system dispensed to children below the age of fifteen. The cache is that those that we see as juvenile today are the very ones that will grow to dispense such justice in the future and the fear is that it will result in a vicious circle.Â
Many countries have signed the United Nation Convention on the right of the Child in a bid to ensure an effective juvenile justice system. Being that children in the world over are considered to be tomorrow’s assets, governments must do everything possible to protect their wellbeing for a standard economic and a workable political system. Juvenile justice offenders are children that are said to be in conflict with the law. The law and standards use to determine who a juvenile offender is varies from country to country. In Sierra Leone, the age limit of a juvenile offender ranges from 12 to 18 years, below 18 the offender in question is still a child because he/she is not capable of knowing the difference between a wrong act and a right.
In an endeavor to address the issue of juvenile justice, developed countries have put certain mechanisms in place such as reform centers and Approved schools for juvenile offenders. Sadly, in Sierra Leone, the justice system apparatus like the police and the scantily established approved schools around the country are in shambles with no proper maintenance and care. Even these basic provisions for juvenile offenders lack the required technical know-how as to how to handle and contain juvenile offenders and their related matters.
Juvenile justice in Sierra Leone is a threat in that hard core criminals are blend together with juvenile offenders when in the actual fact they need reformation centre to address their state of mind. Here comes the irony in the juvenile justice system instead of changing the bad habits, they end up imbibing criminal behavior and when they are integrated into their family and society they end up doing worse than before. In fact improper juvenile justice system has been the main cause of increase in the population of street children in the country.
A country where the rights of children are trampled upon is far from being a democratic country. Because, children and women form the back bone of development in every developed nation in the world. When their rights are not observed to the fullest, it most times affects their social, cultural, economic and educational improvement in their future.
Juvenile justice system is a serious problem that needs urgent redress in a post-conflict country like Sierra Leone. What makes juvenile justice a serious problem in Sierra Leone is the very fact that politicians always relegate children to take the back seat by telling them that they are the future leaders which is absolutely wrong, because that very notion in mind exempt children from taking active part in decision making in the country.
If Sierra Leone is to burg from where it is now, political stakeholders should refrain from making that statement that children are the future leaders, not tomorrow but of today.Â
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