Veritas calls for redrafting of Child Justice Bill

Source: Veritas calls for redrafting of Child Justice Bill – NewsDay Zimbabwe

BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
LEGAL think-tank, Veritas, has implored lawmakers to consider withdrawing the Child Justice Bill currently before Parliament because it has “several anomalies” and “ambiguities” which can affect trials involving children at the courts.

Veritas has recommended redrafting of the Bill to weed out the anomalies.

The Child Justice Bill aims at establishing a distinct criminal justice system to deal with children who commit crimes and to afford such children protection in line with the Constitution and Zimbabwe’s international obligations.

The proposed law was published in the Government Gazette on December 3, 2021 and is awaiting Second Reading in the National Assembly.

In its critique of the Bill on its online platform Bill Watch, Veritas commended some of the provisions which were designed to ensure that children are arrested only as a last resort.

But the legal think-tank pointed out several anomalies in the Bill.

“The Bill will introduce reforms to the criminal justice system which, if implemented, will greatly improve the treatment of children and young persons. There are, however, problems with the Bill and hurdles to be overcome before it can be implemented.

“The Bill is carelessly drafted. We have mentioned many anomalies and ambiguities that will have to be rectified, but there are a great deal more.  Statutes that deal with criminal procedure, as the Bill does, need to be particularly clear and precise to avoid mistakes being made in the course of trials. The Bill will have to be amended extensively at the Committee Stage to remove the anomalies and ambiguities; perhaps it should be withdrawn and redrafted,” Veritas said.

Some of the provisions of the Bill seemed impractical and time-consuming, for instance verification of ages of children, and where numerous offices have to assess the age before the child can be brought before the courts.

“Everyone involved in law enforcement — police, prosecutors, magistrates, judges and prison officers — will need extensive and continuous training to understand the law and be able to carry out their duties under the Bill

“Without such training, the Bill may become a little more than a pious aspiration. A lot of extra trained staff will have to be employed at public expense. There will have to be enough child protection officers and diversion officers in every district to implement the Bill.”

These problems and hurdles are not insurmountable, and if they can be overcome, the Bill will allow children to receive real justice appropriate to their age,” the think-tank said while applauding lawmakers for coming up with provisions that will provide procedures for dealing with children outside the court system by involving families.

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