Police has released a set of new children guidelines that are supposed to be followed by its officers in a bid to ensure children in conflict with the law receive child-friendly justice services.
According to the new guidelines that come into force after 18 years, children who commit petty offences will not be subjected to the formal justice system of being arrested, taken to police cells and later court but rather help reconcile them with the aggrieved parties through non-judicial bodies.
Speaking at the launch of the new guidelines at Hotel Africana in Kampala, the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Maj. Gen. Muzeeyi Sabiiti said children being tomorrow’s leaders, they need to be treated fairly in all aspects.
“All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We need to give a second chance to children. If you are a police officer or any other person in the Justice, Law and Order Sector and you see a child, the first impression should be putting yourself in the steps. Look at them as your own children and this will go a long way in holding generations,”Maj. Gen. Sabiiti said.
He noted that children need to be protected from any harm and that their rights must at all times be upheld as provided for in the United Nations Convention on the Right Child.
The Deputy Inspector General of Police insisted that where a child is in conflict or in contact with the law, police has a duty to strike a balance between ensuring that justice is done and protecting the child from any action that may endanger their wellbeing.
According to Sabiiti, the office of the Inspector General of Police in 2000 issued guidelines in handling offences committed by children but noted it was only prudent that they are revised to bring them to term with the current situation.
“The new guidelines provide parameters for the exercise of the discretion of police officers handling cases involving children in accordance with section 89 of the Children Act. Detention of children in police custody should be avoided as much as possible and should only be a measure of last resort.”
The Police’s Chief Political Commissar, AIGP Asan Kasingye underscored the relevance of the new guidelines that he said will benefit children.
“These guidelines will prevent children from suffering negative developmental impact such as stigmatization association with detention. It is no secret that if children are incarcerated, they will never come out the same,” AIGP Kasingye said.
“If incarcerated, children may come out worse or probably they might learn a lot of traits from detention and bad influence which in future may make them commit more crimes.”
He noted that with the new guidelines, there will be expeditious disposal of offences committed by children.
The UNICEF representative in Uganda, Dr.Doreen Mulenga said the new guidelines are an important milestone achieved by the Uganda government in as far as ensuring child rights are protected.
“As UNICEF, we continue to be committed to supporting the Justice, Law and Order Sector institutions to create a justice system that is responsive to children and is also child-friendly,”Mulenga said.
Children diversion guidelines for police officers
According to the new guidelines children who commit petty crimes like affray, malicious damage to property, criminal trespass, theft, common assault, prostitution and any other offence that is not capital in nature will no longer be detained.
The children accused of these crimes will be subjected to verbal or written warnings, cautions, victim and offender family conferencing, apology, reconciliation and restitution among other punishments other than incarceration.
The new guidelines also underscore the role to be played by communities in ensuring the good upbringing of children.