Transfer non-criminal cases Social Welfare - WAJU urged
Ho, June 24, GNA - Mrs. Margaret Kutsoati, Deputy Director, Justice Administration of the Department Social Welfare, has suggested that the Women and Juvenile Unit (WAJU) of the Police Service transfer non-criminal cases brought before it to the Department of Social Welfare.
She said this would prevent the Unit from being flooded with cases of child maintenance, child neglect and paternity disputes, which among other cases fall in the domain of the Social Welfare Department.
Mrs. Kutsoati was speaking on "Juvenile Justice System - From Arrest to Disposal of Case," at a workshop in Ho on Thursday. UNICEF sponsored the workshop, which was attended by personnel of the Police and Prison services, health workers, juvenile court panel members and staff of the Ghana National Commission on Children (GNCC). She urged the Ghana Education Service to collaborate with the Department of Social Welfare to create more opportunities for children to receive reformatory services.
The workshop was to collate views and discuss difficulties in juvenile justice administration in Ghana to make the public and children more aware of the children's and juvenile justice acts. It was also to evaluate the report of a survey on the status of juvenile justice in Ghana, which was carried out with support from UNICEF.
Mrs. Kutsoati said lack of coordination; inadequate funding for capacity building and lack of interest on the part of some individuals in institutions dealing with juvenile cases had led to the poor implementation of the laws.
She said bureaucracy delaying the transfer of juvenile offenders in regular prisons could result in the young ones being "contaminated" by the hardened criminals they shared cells with.
Mrs. Kutsoati said there should be meticulous investigations into the credentials of people regarded as fit to take custody of juveniles in cases of conflicts and other cases and pointed out being rich did not connote responsibility.
She urged Magistrates to use Probation Officers of the Social Welfare Department and to demand social enquiry reports on juveniles brought before them to enable them take the right decisions on them. Mrs. Vera Gaitu, Deputy Director of Nursing Services said the Police could access the exemption package at hospitals for services to determine the correct ages of some offenders to avoid juveniles being treated as adults.
Mr. Pascal Twumasi, Chief Probation Officer of the Department of Social Welfare, said majority of juvenile delinquents handled during the 10-year duration of the survey came from the Ashanti, Eastern, Western, Volta, Central; and Brong-Ahafo regions.
He said the report attributed the high incidence of criminal activity among children in these areas to the mining and border activities there.
Mr. Twumasi said it was remarkable that Greater-Accra Region recorded fewer juveniles in police cells, during the period due to "the greater awareness of its (Police) role in Juvenile Justice Administration, easier accessibility to Police Stations and the effectiveness of remand homes".
He said among other drawbacks in child upbringing and the administration of juvenile justice noted by the report were poor remuneration for panel members for juvenile courts, insufficient collaboration and information sharing among key players and lack of recreational activities for juveniles.