The following sample essay on “Crime Assignment Diversion”: describes The Child Justice Act issue, society’s reaction on it and ways to solve the problem.
Diversion is any process that is used by components of the criminal justice system through which youths avoid formal juvenile processing and adjudication (Roberts: 13). The development of diversion in South AfricaBefore democracy was introduced in South Africa in 1994, legal reaction to the criminal behaviour of children were brutal as many were exposed to harsh corporal punishment, in particular whipping by police officers (Steyn, 2003).
Children were kept in the awful conditions of adult holding facilities for extended periods of time without their parents or guardians knowing their whereabouts. Legal and social systems to deal with children in conflict with the law were blown apart and separated across different ministries and departments. Conclusions about child offenders were made from a pathology viewpoint instead of a developmental understanding regarding prosocial behaviour and crime prohibition. These matters, among others, were formally addressed with the introduction of South Africas first legal framework for child justice (Steyn, 2005).
The Child Justice Act (75 of 2008) sets out to protect the rights of child offenders, infuse the principles of Ubuntu when dealing with children who offend and to limit childrens contact with the criminal justice system. One purpose of the Child Justice Act is to divert children, when there is sufficient evidence to prosecute them, away from the criminal justice system into developmental programmes (Davis & Busby, 2006). Davis, L. & Busby, M. (2006). Diversion as an alternative for certain offenders: The view of programme participants diverted during the Hatfield court pilot project.
Acta Criminological: Southern African Journal of Criminology, 19(1): 102-114.
More specifically, diversion intends to motivate responsibility and meet the individual needs of child offenders; restore and reconcile them with the family, community and victims, present opportunity for victims to state their views and benefit from compensation, and prevent the shame of the child offender of receiving a criminal record (Child Justice Act, Section 2). Of the total number of finalised court cases in 2009/10 and 2010/2011, 16 058 and 16 462 children respectively, were diverted (National Prosecuting Authority, 2010; 2011). Today, programmes use a variety of approaches in diversion delivery, including life skills training, community service, arts and music, mentoring, involvement of the family and victims and the outdoors . Each approach has its own set of assumptions as to the cause of child offending, as well as the procedures needed to bring about prosocial behaviour (Steyn, 2005).
According to Mujuzi (2015:41) the earliest report, as far as he could find whereby the South African law commission addressed the issue of diversion was with the matter entitled the sexual offences against children which was published in May 1997. In this report the Law commission addressed the pros and cons of diverting children who are claimed to be guilty of engaging in sexual offences from the criminal justice system. It is evident that the proposal of the report were restricted to children who had been claimed to be guilty of committing sexual offences. In the same year the South African Law Commission released another report in an issue paper on the topic of Juvenile Justice, which addressed diversion in detail. The issue paper addresses juvenile justice completely and diversion is addressed in detail. This issue paper gives details of the number of children who have been diverted each year, the role players in the diversion programmes, and the obstacles faced in fulfilling those programmes.
The aims of diversionDiversion has the following aims: To influence the child to be responsible for the harm caused by his or her actions, to recommend an individualised reaction to the harm caused which is favourable to the childs conditions and relevant the conditions surrounding the harm caused, promote the re-joining of the child into the family and the community, present an opportunity for atonement, present an opportunity for the person or people and the community affected by the harm to express their views regarding the impact of the crime, identify the causes motivating the offending behaviour, prohibit the less serious offenders from obtaining criminal record and being identified as criminals as this may turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy, present an educational and rehabilitative programmes for the welfare of all parties involved, minimize the case load of the formal justice system, and lastly prohibit stigmatisation of the child which may arise through the exposure to the rigours of the criminal justice system.
Provide the opportunity for those affected by the harm to express their views on its impact on them. encourage the rendering of some symbolic benefit to the victim or the delivery of some object as compensation for the harm caused, promote reconciliation between the child and the person or persons or community affected by the harm and prevent burdening the child with a criminal record (Wood 2003:3).
Minimum requirements for the diversion.Offenders have to meet certain requirements for them to be diverted, the following are some of the requirements for diversion. Ann Skelton(2001) points out that, a child voluntarily acknowledges the responsibility for the offence, the child realize his or her right to remain silent and has not been inappropriately influenced to acknowledge responsibility, and there is enough evidence to prosecute, if the child and his or her parents agree to diversion and the diversion options. Taking responsibility and being accountable for the offence
Diversion regarding the case study Diversion would be applicable in this case study, in the case study the victim confessed that she gave the offender or the accused consent and that no coercion took place during the alleged incident. Since The Child Justice Act (75 of 2008) sets out to protect the rights of child offenders, the offender would be protected from being put to prison for an act that he was not aware that it will turn out to be an offence. Diversion intends to motivate responsibility and meet the individual needs of child offenders, diversion would help the offender realise that he committed a crime considering the age of the victim.
The diversion programme that he will be placed in will also address the difficulties that he encountered in his life, like losing his parents and being sexually molested by his cousin. Diversion also intends to restore and reconcile offenders with the family, community and victims, Jackson will be restored with his grandmother as he has also started to challenge her when she tries to discipline him. Diversion will also help Jackson get back to school and help him focus more on his school work so his academic performance will improve. Lastly, the diversion programmes will help him be aware of the fact that being friends with a gang that participates in various gang violent activities may lead to being in trouble with the legal system and may also lead to arrests and getting a criminal record.
An exposition on the various alternative sentencing options available in South Africa. The following are the various alternative sentencing options, Life skills training life skills training is a structured intervention which lasts roughly three months. It accommodates groups of around twelve participants who share similar behavioural problems. Parents attend the first and last sessions, which aim at reintegrating the child with his/her family (Steyn, 2012). Programme activities include role play, problem-solving and homework aimed at changing the way participants think (Steyn, 2011). Mentoring in mentoring programmes, a diverted child is matched with an older person who provides guidance and leadership (Steyn, 2012).
Matches are made individually to cater for the childs personal and developmental needs. In structured mentoring, as is the case with diversion, the mentoring relationship usually terminates once the programmes goals have been achieved (Steyn & Louw, 2012). Family group conferencing Family, Family group conferencing (FGC), brings together the child offender, his/her family and the victim of the offence to discuss the criminal event in order to find a solution to its aftermath. All parties are thoroughly prepared prior to the meeting. At the conference, attention is paid to the circumstance which led to the offence and the impact of the crime on the child, his/her family and the victim. (Steyn, 2012)The parties then come to an agreement on the steps needed to remedy the offence. Participation in educational and rehabilitative programmes (that make offenders accountable for their actions, offer them significant development opportunities to turn their lives around and as a result prevent them from re-offending), (Davis & Busby, 2006).
Compulsory school attendance orders. Outdoor interventions, in outdoor programmes, a group of about twelve child offenders are taken camping where they engage in a variety of physical and mental activities such as canoeing, abseiling and high ropes courses. The physical activities serve to challenge their perceptions about themselves and their pasts. Pre-trial Community Service, instead of continuing with prosecution the child on accepting responsibility for the offence or crime committed, is ordered to perform a specified number of hours of community service. The public prosecutor, determine the required number of hours and then monitors the childs progress. A child usually performs between 20 and 60 hours of community service and is based at a Non-profit organisation (Wood, 2003).
Victim Offender Mediation, This is a process in which both the victim and the child are brought together, under the facilitation of a specially trained NICRO mediator. During the mediation, both the victim and the child discuss the impact of crime on their respective lives. They then participate in a process of devising a mutually acceptable plan that will strive to repair the harm caused by the crime while holding the child accountable for his or her behaviour (Wood, 2003). The Journey, This is a multi-component programme that has been designed for children who have committed offence(s) and are considered to be high-risk. The programme normally accommodates a group of ten to 15 children. The children are often repeat offenders and have dropped out of school. The programme involves life skills training, vocational skills training and a wilderness component based on rites of passage theory, which is facilitated by a non-governmental organisation called Educo (Wood, 2003).
Youth Empowerment Scheme, This is a life skills programme that is composed of six sessions that are held one afternoon per week over a period of six weeks. The programme usually takes a group of 15 to 25 children. The parents or guardians attend both the first and last sessions. The programme makes use of interactive and experiential learning techniques to assist children in obtaining important life skills. The themes covered in the programme include: crime and the law, parent-child relationships, self-esteem, conflict resolution and responsible decision making (Wood, 2003).
The most appropriate alternative sentencing option will be for the case study (MY OWN)This programme will bring both the families of the offender and the victim, the victim and the offender. In the first session there will be a mediator will make sure that the parties obey the rules. The reasons or circumstances that caused the offender to commit the crime will be identified, both the victims and offenders family will be given a chance to say something about the reasons that may have led to the crime. The family members will be allowed in the first three sessions. After the three sessions the victim and the offender will then have their own session where they will be both provide an opportunity to express themselves regarding the crime, in this case the victim might not be traumatised by the act because they confessed that they gave the offender the permission to proceed with the act.
The victims relationship with her family may be affected by this act as they are the ones who insisted that she presses charges against Jackson. The victim and the offender will then be assigned to a mentor which is a qualified life coach, the mentors will deal with individuals needs and help them deal with their past circumstances. The victim will be taught about self-love and self-esteem, they will be taught how to behave as a young girl and be made aware of the health risks associated with having sex particularly at a young age. Jacksons life coach will try to address the issue of losing his parents and provide a counselling that will help Jackson grief and how to deal with the anger and trauma of losing both parents in a car accident. The counselling will also deal with the sexual assault that he experienced at home. The mentor will then help Jackson identify his dreams and encourage him to go back to school. Then lastly, Jackson will then spent 120 hours at a local old age home for community service.