Juveniles to be charged jointly with adults in specific cases as law amended

Juveniles will now be tried as adults in indictable matters following the National Assembly’s passage of the amendments to the Juvenile Justice Act. The amendments which were tabled a month ago, state that juveniles will be tried together with adults for offences they are accused of committing together which cannot be disposed of by summary trial.

The National Assembly on Tuesday concluded debates and passed the amendments to the Juvenile Justice Act, which is expected to significantly reduce the backlog in cases and hefty expenses faced by the judiciary.

According to the amendments, if a juvenile has been accused of committing an indictable offence with an adult and, “the offence cannot be disposed of summarily, the juvenile may be charged jointly with the adult.”

Minister of Culture, Youth, and Sport, Charles Ramson, explained that it is important for the government to ensure that there is a strong “deterrence” to committing serious crimes that fall under those indictable charges; murder, treason, rape, and manslaughter.

He said the Government’s priority is to protect citizens.

Rebutting the argument of Opposition Member of Parliament Khemraj Ramjattan, who claimed that the simple amendments tear down the “architecture” of the 177-page legislation, Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr Vindhya Persaud, noted that there is no intention to remove or jeopardise the rights of juveniles in the furtherance of this law.

“At no point in this amendment are we removing the rights of the juvenile. Would we rather that nothing be done? Would we rather that persons affected by the offences not have justice done? I am pretty sure that as every member would have considered this legislation it would not have escaped them that the juvenile would be bereft of the rights that are enshrined within the entire act,” Dr Persaud told the House.

According to Section 3 (b) (i) of the principal Act which restricts juveniles from appearing before the Court with an adult, the explanatory memorandum of the amendments highlight that the proposed amendment will create an exception.

“The current criminal justice system often results in witnesses testifying twice, leading to a significant increase in judicial time and expense,” the explanatory memorandum states.