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Lack of Legal Representation, Transport Hinders Juvenile Justice

Christine Namara, the Ntoroko District Probation Officer says the minor offenders are supposed to appear in court twice each week, but sometimes they fail due to lack of transport means. She explains that the only vehicle belonging to the Remand Home broke down two years ago and it has never been repaired due to lack of funds.

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Minor offenders in Rwenzori region are struggling to access justice due to lack of legal representation. Statistics from the regional child and family protection unit in Fort Portal show that there are 70 minor offenders in Fort Portal and Karugutu Remand Homes.

 

The face charges such as theft, assault and arson among others. The minor spend more than five months in custody before they appear the children's court in Fort Portal due to lack of legal representation and transport to the court. 

 

Richard Bagonza, the in-charge Karugutu Remand Home in Ntoroko district, says 35 inmates have spent four months in detention there due to lack of legal representation. 

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Christine Namara, the Ntoroko District Probation Officer says the minor offenders are supposed to appear in court twice each week, but sometimes they fail due to lack of transport means. She explains that the only vehicle belonging to the Remand Home broke down two years ago and it has never been repaired due to lack of funds.

 

Cyrus Makune, a Police Officer attached to the Child and Family protection Unit at Karugutu Police Station says police often struggles to uphold the standards of dispensing justice to child offenders. He explains that most times the child offenders are locked up in the same cells with adults.

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Richard Ayebare, a Child Rights Advocate in Fort Portal wants government to make provisions that would make legal representation for child suspects mandatory.  He says private lawyers should be hired to help the minor offenders access justice.

Last year, human rights defenders in Uganda called for a favorable environment under which juvenile justice is administered.  The activists argued that juvenile justice should focus more on rehabilitation of offenders rather than punishment and detention. 

Section 89, Subsection 9 of the children's act calls for the establishment of a family and children's court in every district and defines its venue and procedures including care and supervision orders to be of benefit for the child.

Failure by government institutions to adequately provide for the child suspects contravenes the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The convention states that children who have committed an offence have the right to respect for their human rights and, in particular, to benefit from all aspects of the due process of law, including legal or other assistance in preparing and presenting their defense.

 



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