Thursday, 17 April 2008 7:53 AM

The Future of Children is Today - a Fresh Style of Justice for Young People

Diversion is a way of dealing with young people who get into trouble with the law - it is a means of restoring them back to normal life without suffering undue punishment and having to go to jail.

Key criminal justice figures including Chief Justice of the High Court Sir Albert Palmer, Minister for Police and National Security Samuel Manetoali and Mr Frank Kabui, Chairman of the Law Reform Commission, Commissioner of Police Jahir Kahn and Assistant Commissioner Edmond Sikua, came together yesterday to discuss the findings of Save the Children's research into diversion mechanisms in Solomon Islands.

Following a lengthy discussion about formal and traditional justice mechanisms involving young people, Assistant Commissioner Sikua recommended that a working group be established.

The forum declared unanimously that a diversion working group will be established and will sit under the Solomon Islands National Crime Prevention Council (SINCPC).

The working group will address the recommendations borne from the report produced by Save the Children and work to incorporate the CNURA government objective to assist in the reintroduction of traditional and restorative sentencing mechanisms.

This is a great win for juvenile justice and for people working to restore traditional mechanisms of solving problems of young people in the community.

The working group aims to present their consolidated recommendations for diversion to the Honourable Minister for Police and National Security, Mr Samuel Manetaoli for him to present to Parliament.

On opening the morning's proceedings, Mr Manetaoli said that "we must recognize that the Solomon Islands population is a very young one" estimated that half the population is under the age of 15 years.

As noted in the Solomon Islands' Strategic Policing assessment conducted in 2005, 'this age demographic will present significant challenges for policing, peace and good order particularly if it is accompanied by population shifts'.

"I believe that we all want our children and youths to be able to grow up and develop in a safe and secure nation," Mr. Manetaoli said. "I also believe that we all want to help those children and youths who may be at risk of falling into crime and unlawful conduct. We all have a responsibility to help these children and youths so that they can be helped and guided to do the right thing."

Save the Children commissioned an external consultant, Mr Jurgen Wellner, to complete the report.

Over the last six weeks, Mr. Wellner has met with over 100 young people, members from the SIPF, judiciary, magistracy, DPP, Public Solicitor's Office, Police Prosecutions, RAMSI Law and Justice Unit (Justice Delivered Locally initiative), village chiefs and community elders to produce the research.

Save the Children staff from the Children and Youth in Conflict with the Law Project has assisted him to collect the research from Honiara and the provinces.

Child Protection Advisor from Save the Children Australia, Alice McGrath said that Mr. Wellner's contribution to this very important exercise is immeasurable, which lay a solid foundation for further, and very important, work to be done for young people achieving restorative justice in their communities.

The study was made under the Children and Youth in Conflict with the Law Project of Save the Children Australia.

The Project was developed in response to significant concerns regarding the current capacity of the country's juvenile justice system to promote and protect the best interests of the child.

The Project is a three-year program funded by NZAID that commenced in July of 2006.

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