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