Bills to bolster child protection and juvenile justice

May 24, 2024 12:46 pm

[File Photo]

Two bills were presented by Women, Children and Social Protection Lynda Tabuya yesterday which is expected to bring a historic shift in juvenile justice.

The Child Care and Protection Bill aims to provide comprehensive support and safeguarding measures for all Fijian children, with a particular focus on those who are deprived of parental care or facing abuse and neglect within their families.

The Child Justice Bill is designed to address the root causes of juvenile delinquency and reduce the number of children who resort to a life of crime for survival.

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Minister Lynda Tabuya says this legislation represents a crucial step towards ensuring the well-being and protection of vulnerable children across the nation.

“There is a deep connection between children who have no care and children who offend. Research from some of our nearest neighbours shows that children who have experienced the psychological damage of child abuse trauma or have had an intellectual disability make up about 90 percent of our children that are being incarcerated.”

Tabuya says one of the most significant changes proposed in the Bill is raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 years.

“Extensive research across the world clearly shows that the younger a child at their first arrest, the greater their chances of future offending. A study of incarcerated youth found that children arrested before the age of 14 are three times more likely to re-offend as adults compared to children arrested when they are over the age of 14 years.”

Tabuya stresses the bill seeks to address the root causes of juvenile delinquency, focusing on rehabilitation and reintegration rather than punishment.

The bill will be referred to the Standing Committee on Justice, Law, and Human Rights to be debated in parliament as the motion was unanimously agreed yesterday evening.