In a bid to promote proper treatment of children in conflict with the law, Malawi Police Service with funding from European Union (EU) and the Irish Rule of Law International is implementing a program that is aimed at diverting juvenile suspects from formal criminal justice system.
The program is currently being implemented in all police stations across the Central Region including Nkhunga Police Station.
Malawi24 caught up with Nkhunga Police Station spokesperson Laban Makalani who said that officers have been drilled on how to treat children cases.
“Personnel from Central Region Police Headquarters and the Irish Rule of Law International trained police officers at Nkhunga Police Station early April this year in proper treatment of child suspects and diversion to enable them acquire relevant skills and best practices as required by latest domestic and international law,” Makalani said.
“Barely a month later, on Tuesday the team revisited the station to monitor progress made. During the monitoring and evaluation visit, the team had a meeting with officers at the station, for Nkhunga Police Station, Senior Superintendent Patrick Lupoka,” Makalani said.
Speaking on behalf of the Officer in Charge, Deputy Commissioner of Police Grinton Mitayi said exposure of children to formal criminal justice processes has negative impact on child development.
Lupoka thanked the MPS and its partners for implementing the initiative which he said will go a long way in promoting child rights and development in the country.
He disclosed the concept of pre-trial diversion has been embraced by all police officers at Nkhunga Police Station and it is being fully implemented in corroboration with probation officers from the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare.
Senior Superintendent Lupoka also noted that the initiative is receiving support from the court.
“Recently, we have witnessed that even the Nkhunga Magistrate Court here in Dwangwa is considering pre-trial diversion,” he said.
Speaking during the same meeting, Sub-Inspector Esau Kamwendo who is the Central Regional Child Protection Desk Officer said the team had decided to pay the station a visit to appreciate progress.
Kamwendo who was accompanied by a Program Lawyer for Irish Rule of Law, Mr. Heath McCallum administered questionnaires to the officers to measure their knowledge on child care, protection and diversion.
Malawi passed the Child Care and Protection Act in the year 2010 which raised the age of a child to 18 years and provided for regulations and procedures which must be followed to divert juveniles who have committed minor crimes from the formal justice system.
The process of diversion is in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
The principal objective of the diversion program is to redirect youths away from formal processing in the juvenile justice system while still holding them accountable for their actions.
The program is deemed to be less costly as it diminishes the burden on the courts by reducing their caseload.