Institute for the Advancement of Children’s Rights (IACR) recently oriented law
students on the Legal framework for juvenile justice at the University of The
Gambia Law Faculty in Kanifing.
Delivering on the legal framework governing juvenile justice in The Gambia, President and founder of (IACR) Barrister Malick H.B. Jallow said the 1949 children and young person’s Act had provisions that could benefit juvenile justice and that though these were relevant, the Act has notable short comings as far as bringing it in compliance with Gambia’s international legal obligation is concerned.
He said the Act has no provisions for specialised court, as there is now children’s court. “The children and young persons’ Act did not also fit the age of criminal liability and these were all major gaps amongst other things.”
He noted that the institution has identified key areas that require legislative attention that they believe requires change in the law in order to bring the Gambia closer to fulfilling her international obligations as far as juvenile justice is concerned.
He said in The Gambia constitution, there is only one provision directly alluding to children’s rights, but there is no specific provision addressing the issue of juvenile justice.
Barrister Jallow said the constitution being the most fundamental legal document should recognize the concept of juvenile justice, its relevance and utility as a tool for ensuring effective protection and promotion of the rights of the child.
Madam Sidi Jobarteh, chairperson of the children’s court said the Children Act of 2005 governs the court; a panel of three, headed by a chairperson. “Going by Section 70 of the Children’s Act, the children’s court has jurisdiction to hear and determine all criminal matters in respect to children except for treason and where a child is being judged with an adult” she emphasized.”
She said they are facing challenges including the trial of both minor and adult cases in the same place and without due regard to guidelines of the rules governing juvenile justice in other courts. “Children are not represented throughout the trial and the proceedings were in open courts which are all against the rights of the child.”
She noted that the child’s right to privacy should be respected throughout the proceedings of the trial and only persons concerned should be present in court during the trial. “The children are exposed to the general public because they are brought in the same vehicle with the adult prisoner which is against the rights of children.”