The Approval of Juvenile Court System Bill – a Gift for National Children’s Day 2012
The approval by the House of Representatives of Juvenile Court System Bill (JCS Bill) on Tuesday, July 3, 2012 is the first step toward creating laws that protect children’s rights. It guarantees children protection in the courts and will take into account the best interest of the child rather than merely being a vehicle for revenge of the wronged party.
In this JCS Law, we see some improvement in our state’s law system. With Restorative Justice now included in juvenile delinquency cases, the law will include the offender, the victim, the offender/victim’s family, and other people who may be involved; all to find the best solution. The goal is to restore things to the way they were, not revenge. Besides, this restorative justice approach can also lead to action from the public so they are willing to get involved in the settlement of juvenile delinquency.
This law does not focus on the child as a criminal – as is usual in such cases– but is more about educating the child to take responsibility for his/her own actions. What we need is a way to educate, to repair, and to restore conditions in order to develop people’s characters, for a better future.
In line with Restorative Justice, which is needed to settle the cases, Diversion (as explained in the new law) is also needed, especially for crimes with penalties under 7 years. Diversion is an important point to keep the child away from a grueling judicial process by diverting the case from juvenile court to a non-court process, as stated in Chapter 1, Section 7. Some key components of Diversion are explained in Chapter 8, Section 3:
1. Contemplating the victim’s interest
2. The child’s welfare and responsibility
3. Avoiding negative stigma
4. Avoiding revenge
5. Society’s harmony and norms
6. Decency and public order
This Law is not only related to Restorative Justice and Diversion, but also explains firmly the procedure and the time frame of arrest and captivity before the classification process. These steps are useful in order to prevent deprival of the child’s liberty.
Beside the positive points we can see in the Juvenile Court System Law, there is still debate regarding the child’s age range. Even though there is improvement from the previous Law Number 3, made in 1997 about Juvenile Court which stated that the minimum age of a child who is considered to be responsible is 8 years old, the latest JCS Law raised the minimum age, it ranges from 12 to 18 years old as the age of a child considered to be responsible and 14 to 18 years old as the age of child who can be arrested. But this age range is considered not ideal based on children’s psychological development. Compare it to the data from UNICEF in 2005 about the minimum age of a child who can be taken to the court in some countries: Austria (14), Belgium (18), Denmark (15), England (10), Finland (15), France (13), Germany (14), Greece (12), Ireland (7), Italy (14), Luxembourg (18), Netherlands (12), North Ireland (8), Portugal (16), Scotland (8), Spain (16), Sweden (15).
So while it is a victory that the age has been raised from 8, there is still work to do. Overall, with the approval of this Law, it does not mean that the government now has perfect protection for juvenile delinquents. The government still has work to do to ensure that every juvenile delinquent gets legal aid. Many of these children ended up in jail because of minor crimes and they did not know that they had the right to legal counsel and to receive legal aid.
The government must also prepare a special education system regarding the treatment of children to all law enforcement, like the police, attorneys, and judges. The government should also prepare specialized organizations that assist juvenile delinquents through the court process. We as civilians must also be active in criticizing the government of the JCS Law’s implementation because it will affect our nation’s future generation.
Happy National Children’s Day July 23, 2012!
Advocacy of Sahabat Anak