The Uganda Police Force and UNICEF—United Nations Children’s Fund—have launched Diversion Guidelines that allow children below 18 years who commit petty offences to be rehabilitated instead of being tried in court.
The new guidelines, which are coming into force after 19 years, will ensure that minors who commit petty offences are diverted from the formal justice system through procedures, structures, and programmes that help reconcile them with the aggrieved through non-judicial bodies, thus avoiding the negative effects of formal judicial proceedings.
Uganda Police will facilitate this process and brief the parents or guardians about the offense committed to ensure that the child doesn’t come into conflict with the law again.
Effective diversion measures prevent minor offences from clogging up the formal justice system, and can help reduce the number of children who re-offend, as international evidence shows.
For children who have committed grave offences, Uganda Police will refer their cases to a judge or magistrate who will decide whether to undertake court proceedings.
The new guidelines reflect the current situation, rules, and principles in line with the Children (Amendment) Act 2016, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and its guidelines, and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
In Uganda, many children come into contact with the formal justice system, or are deprived of liberty when their basic rights are not fully respected. Children below the age of 18 years can be arrested and detained for petty offences. According to the Justice, Law and Order Sector Annual Report 2017/18, the national diversion rate is 76.3 per cent, although the importance of diversion is not fully recognized among all police officers and stakeholders.
Speaking at the launch, Dr. Doreen Mulenga, UNICEF Representative in Uganda said, “We congratulate the Government of Uganda on this important milestone for child rights. As UNICEF, we continue to be committed to supporting the Justice, Law and Order Sector institutions, including the Uganda Police, to create a justice system that is responsive to children and is child-friendly.”
The launch is an opportunity to spread the ideas and procedures of diversion widely among stakeholders who are involved in justice for children across the country.
“I would like to make sure that every police officer in each community understands how to apply diversion to make a true change. In order to acheive that, everybody should be involved in trainings on how to use the guidelines rather than just distributing the guidelines”, said Maureen Atuhaire, Ag. Commissioner of Child and Family Protection Department. To achieve this, officers will be trained on how to use the guidelines which will be disseminated after the launch.Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).