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UN official lauds Child Diversion Act

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

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ST JAMES, Jamaica — Independent Expert for the United Nations (UN) Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty, Manfred Nowak, is lauding Jamaica's soon-to-be-implemented Child Diversion Act as a step in the right direction.

“That is certainly a positive development. Diversion at every stage of the criminal justice system is best for juvenile offenders,” the UN official said.

Nowak was speaking with journalists at the second Regional Conference of the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN), at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa in Montego Bay, St James, on Monday.

He is also recommending that key stakeholders be involved in the rehabilitation of troubled children. “Having courts with child-friendly justice, psychologists and social workers should be included, so that the child will be rehabilitated, " he said.

Nowak also underscored that restorative justice must be key in the child diversion process to prevent reversion. As such, he is suggesting that juvenile offenders meet with victims of the crimes they committed, as this approach is among the best practices of many other countries that practise community-based mediation.

“This is much more effective to avoid recidivism than putting them in prison, and then they come out and commit another crime,” he said.

Child diversion is the process of implementing measures to deal with children who are alleged, accused or recognised to have infringed the penal law, without resorting to formal judicial proceedings.

The main objectives of the Child Diversion Act are ensuring that every child in conflict with the law is treated in a manner that recognises and upholds human dignity and worth; diverting the child away from engaging in deviant and delinquent behaviours; and instilling in the child respect for the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

Nowak is among the key presenters at the ISPCAN Conference, which ends today.

The ISPCAN Conference is being held in partnership with the Office of the Children's Advocate (OCA), under the theme 'Child Protection Realities within a Changing Caribbean and World'.

Participants include child advocates from the United States (US), United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, Barbados and Switzerland.

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