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10.08.2005 Crime & Punishment

Prosecutors urged to note age of young offenders

GNA

Kumasi, Aug. 10, GNA - Police prosecutors have been advised to be cautious in the determination of the ages of young offenders in order not to put juveniles into prison.

Mrs Margaret Kutsoati, Deputy Director of the Department of Social Welfare, who gave the advice, said the failure of police prosecutors and judicial staff to determine the proper ages of young offenders had led to the incarceration of many juveniles in prison and police cells. Mrs Kutsoati was speaking at a sensitisation workshop in Kumasi on Wednesday on the report of a survey on the National Juvenile Justice Administration, which was conducted by the Department of Social Welfare in collaboration with UNICEF between 1993 and 2003.

Participants from the Police, Prisons services, the Judicial Service, District Juvenile Panel members, civic educators and officials from the Department of Social Welfare in all the districts in Ashanti attended the workshop.

According to the report, 2,164 juveniles were kept in 318 prison cells, which were surveyed between 1993-2003. 84 per cent males and 13 per cent females of the total number were between 16-18 years. A total of 10,488 juveniles were also kept in 588 police cells during the same period. 72.7 per cent of the juveniles were between the ages of 16-18 years.

Mrs Kutsoati said when the age was falsely determined the courts were often misled to sentence juveniles into prison custody, adding that there was the need for prosecutors to be extremely cautious to reduce the exposure of young people to the criminal justice system.

Mrs Dorcas Genevieve Boakye-Agyei, Ashtown District Juvenile Magistrate, who chaired the function, said the purpose of the diversion programme in the juvenile justice system was to prevent young minor offenders from being prosecuted under the criminal justice system.

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