Justice ministry considers victim involvement in child diversion

THE Ministry of Justice is considering the inclusion of victims as part of the child diversion process to facilitate the mending of broken relationships within schools and communities.

Child diversion is an alternative dispute resolution tool used primarily to put the child offender on a path away from the criminal justice system and its attendant negative features. It involves measures to rehabilitate the child as a response to crime and wrongdoing.

Speaking at a recent JIS Think Tank, Justice Minister Delroy Chuck said that during meetings with the chief justice, Supreme Court and parish court judges, among the matters raised was whether the victims should play a part in the process. “In essence, suppose it was an act of abuse or violence done by the accused? So, this means there is a victim and that raises the question, ‘Should the victim play a part in whether or not this child should be put on the programme’,” he said.

“So, the idea is that we may modify the legislation somewhat, or the regulations, to say that in child diversion that where there is a victim who may feel that we are giving a slap on the wrist to the offender, that we bring that victim into the [process].

“This could be done, perhaps, through restorative justice or with an additional explanation of what we are trying to do with the offender, so that the victim doesn’t feel left out and feel that justice is not being done,” Minister Chuck explained.

Meanwhile, the minister said that the focus of child diversion going into the next financial year will be on promoting the initiative across the island.

“We want people to appreciate not only the successes but also the need for the programme. We certainly will want to get all the guidance counsellors in the schools to be aware of it. We want to do more training of the police officers, so that where they see children at risk or who are getting into wayward activities, that some of them can be diverted to the child diversion offices,” he noted.

The justice minister said he hopes that Jamaicans will be able to appreciate that the programme was established “to save the nation’s children” by keeping them away from wrongdoing.

“So, it is a successful programme, and we hope that in another year or two we can give even more figures to show the success,” Minister Chuck said.

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