Child panels are to be set up in a number of communities throughout the country to address issues related to children, the Chief Justice, Mr Justice George Kingsley Acquah, has revealed.
The panels, when fully operational, will not only absorb civil issues like non-maintenance of children, child labour, truancy/failure to send a child to school but also minor crimes such as petty quarrels and stealing.
The Chief Justice explained that the child panel system would provide an approach which would use the traditional arbitration process where all interested parties to a case are brought together to discuss an issue in informal surroundings, with elders from that community as arbitrators.
“Since the deliberations of the child panel and its settings are informal, it is less intimidating for children and would, therefore, be more child-friendly.” he said.
Mr Justice Acquah said the child panels would also have to engage in educative activities relating to children's rights, ease counselling support for child victims of abuse, where necessary, and promote forgiveness between a child offender and his or her victim.
He said the child panels would ensure that justice prevails in matters relating to children without resort to the main justice system, which tended to be expensive and time-consuming.
The Officer in charge of the Social Welfare Division of the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DVVSU), Mr Dela T. Ashiabor, explained that the establishment of the child panels is in consonance with a provision in the Children's Act (Act 560) which requires the setting up of a quasi-judicial body to mediate civil and criminal matters at the community level.
He said currently the system was operating in certain districts outside the Greater Accra Region and it had proved to be very effective.
“The effectiveness of these panels in those districts is evident. Therefore, when they are established in all the districts, it will reduce the burden on the judicial system, which is already seriously overloaded,” he said.
Story By Hadiza Nuhhu-Billa