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The Juvenile Justice Reform Bill was tabled in the National Assembly on Thursday which now officially paves the way for a major overhaul of the juvenile justice system in Guyana.The Bill was read for the first time by Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan in the National Assembly after months of consultations, reviews and fine-tuning.In presenting the Bill, Ramjattan said the Act is expected to amend and consolidate the law in relation to criminal justice for juveniles and make provisionPublic Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattanfor proceedings with respect to juvenile offenders.Also, the Minister said the Bill will provide for the establishment of facilities for the custody, education and rehabilitation of juvenile offenders, and to repeal the Juvenile Offenders Act and the Training Schools Act.Ramjattan said previously that a cost analysis done by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) is another reason for the delay. However, it was necessary to have information on expenditure needed to provide supporting mechanisms for the Bill in place, such as recreational and training centres.The Bill, among other things, provides to the juvenile justice system to further the wellbeing of juveniles, and encourage and facilitate juveniles having a meaningful life in the community by rehabilitation, education, reintegration, and proportionate and appropriate accountability to victims and society.According to the criminal capacity aspect of the Act, “no child shall be capable of or guilty of committing an offence unless the presumption is rebutted pursuant to an evaluation done in accordance with subsection.”In addition to other factors, it was also stated that “where a child is charged, the Director of Public Prosecutions or the Prosecutor or the Attorney-at-law representing the child shall request of the court and the court shall order an evaluation of the child by a suitably qualified person to be conducted at the expense of the State.”If a teenager has been found guilty of a crime, it was plainly stated that the Juvenile Justice System will be separate from that for adults, and place emphasis on the rehabilitation, education and reintegration of youths.As such, it seeks to ensure that a juvenile is subject to meaningful consequences proportionate to the offence and circumstances, recognising his or her greater dependency and reduced level of maturity, while providing procedural protection to ensure that adolescents are treated fairly and humanely and their rights are protected.The Bill will provide timely intervention that reinforces the link between the offending behaviour and its consequences; inform and involve parents of juveniles of and in measures or proceedings, and ensure that victims are provided with information about the proceedings and are given an opportunity to participate and be heard and wherever possible contribute to the rehabilitation and reintegration of the juveniles.Moreover, in accordance to the Act, the application of measures taken against juveniles who commit offences will reinforce respect for societal values; ensure fair and proportionate accountability; encourage the repair of harm done to victims and the community; and where appropriate, involve the parents, the extended family, the community and social or other agencies in the juvenile’s rehabilitation, education and reintegration, and 12 criminal capacity be prompt given a juvenile’s perception of time.Depending on the nature of the offence, the Juvenile Justice Bill 2018 provides “Diversions” which is considered to “often [be] the most appropriate and effective way to address juvenile crime and it allows “for effective and timely interventions focused on correcting offending behaviour.Diversion measures shall not be exploitative, harmful or hazardous to the physical or mental health of the juvenile; shall be appropriate to the age and maturity of the juvenile; and shall not interfere with the education of the juvenile.Some of the examples of “Diversion measures” provided by the Bill may include “an oral or written apology to a specified person or institution”, “placement by the court under the supervision and guidance of the Chief Probation Officer” or “referral by the court to counselling or therapy for a specified period” among others. Over the past two years, a number of consultations throughout Guyana had been held to familiarise members of the public with the Bill. These consultations also served the dual purpose of getting feedback from the public on what the Bill ought and ought not contain.It is expected that the Bill will seek to make sweeping changes to existing legislation, including removing status offences such as wandering. There were even proposals to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 years. Some of the measures the Bill is expected to contain are an emphasis on alternatives to detaining delinquents. More alternative sentencing has for some time been advocated by rights groups and international organisations.