Child offenders

Child Offenders

A child who is found on the wrong side of the law is referred to as a child offender.


According to the Penal Code, a child is said to be criminally responsible if that child is eight (8) years of age. This is usually known as the age of criminal responsibility.


Therefore a child below eight years cannot be held responsible for any crime and cannot be charged in a court of law for criminal prosecution.


The Children’s Court may try a child for any offence except for:-

  • the offence of murder
  • an offence with which the child is charged together with an adult


A child and the judicial system:-

Every child accused of having infringed any law shall:-

  • be informed promptly and directly of the charges against him
  • be provided by the Government with assistance in the preparation and presentation of defence if unable to obtain legal assistance
  • have the matter determined without delay
  • not be compelled to give testimony or to confess guilt
  • have free assistance of an interpreter if the child cannot understand or speak the language used
  • the child’s privacy  shall be fully respected in all the proceedings
  • special care and dignity  shall be given to a disabled child similar to that given to a child with no disability


The law requires that:-

  • The Children’s Court to have a setting that is friendly to the child offender.
  • Every court dealing with a child  should have regard to the best interests of the child and should take steps to remove the child from undesirable surroundings and secure a  proper provision for the child’s maintenance, education and training.
  • No child should be ordered to imprisonment or to be placed in a detention camp
  • No child should be sentenced to death
  • No child under the age of ten years should be ordered by a Children’s Court to be sent to a rehabilitation school
  • No child offender should be subjected to corporal punishment.


Found guilty…then what?!

Where a child is found guilty, the court may deal with the child in the following number of  ways:-

  • discharge the offender
  • make a probation order against the offender
  • commit the offender to the care of a fit person, may be a relative , a person who is not a relative or a charitable children’s institution
  • order the child who is above ten years and under fifteen years of age to be sent to a rehabilitation school suitable to the child’s needs and attainments.
  • order the offender to pay a fine, compensation or costs, or any or all of them. The parents or guardians of the child will normally be ordered by the court to pay on behalf of the child.
  • order the child to be sent to a borstal institution if the child has attained the age of sixteen years
  • place the offender under the care of a qualified counsellor
  • place the child in an educational institution or a vocational training programme
  • place the child in a probation hostel
  • making a community service order


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