By Duduzile Ndlukulwani

The Ministry of Justice inter-ministerial taskforce yesterday revealed that the legislative framework dealing with child offenders is vague and unsatisfactory.

Speaking at the two-day southern stakeholder consultative workshop on the drafting of the Child Justice Bill in Bulawayo yesterday, Professor Geoff Feltoe said the new Bill was advocating for a new system which will be consistent with the constitutional provisions on the rights and protection of children.

He said the legislative framework seeks align with other legal international instruments, thereby establishing a distinct criminal justice system for child offenders.

“The courts trying cases of child offenders should be able to apply less formal and more inquisitorial processes and must be able to provide sentences which are more geared toward rehabilitation and restorative justice,” Feltoe said.

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“The new Bill advocates that the imprisonment of children must be the last resort and if imprisonment is unavoidable, it should be the shortest period.”

Feltoe also spoke on the need for detailed procedures to ensure that all child offenders get legal representation.

The current Child Justice Bill as discussed during the workshop has loopholes which include giving leeway to the absence of a probation officer, mixing children with adults due to lack of pre-trial diversion in other provinces, thereby jeopardising the provisions of the Children’s Act.

The operation of the Child Justice Bill, 2019 will commence on a date fixed by the President by proclamation in the Government Gazette.