Children in conflict with law
The Child in Conflict with the Law (CCL) means any person under 18 who has committed or perpetrated an offense or is an accomplice or charged. This is a child whose actions fall within the scope of the law and who is called to deal with the institutional system of reparations to others or to society.
II. Target characterization
We can find the CCL at Police Stations, Courts, Prisons, Public Institutions catering for minors and reeducating socially maladjusted juveniles, Private Social Structures catering for children, or families.
Some get in conflict with the law following a complaint, raids by security forces or a request for assistance from family members. It could therefore be classified into 03 categories:
1. Children who cannot be accused of having been in the wrong place at the wrong time;
2. Socially maladjusted children, i.e. those with behavioural problems such that they are unable to adapt to their environment, to adjust to the society, to play their role in society, and thus pose a real problem in their families;
3. Delinquent children, that is to say those who, beyond the benign characteristics of juvenile social maladjustment acts, have gone the extra mile of committing a wrongdoing which in legal terms is called a crime.
III. Special protection measures of CCL
The CCL should receive a categorical separation from adults in their place of detention or imprisonment (Police Station, Territorial Units of Gendarmerie, Prisons ...).
During the preliminary investigation of the minor, custody should only be used when it is absolutely necessary, and the hearing is to take place in the presence of his parents or other family member or in the presence of the Social Worker assigned to the unit concerned.
When pursuing the minor is necessary and subject to the provisions of Article 80 of the Penal Code, the person pursuing him can only be convinced of the crime by way of legal information, information that will focus on useful investigations on the knowledge of his personality (the Criminal Procedure Code envisages social enquiry and medical examination as measures at the discretion of the Judge and the means of achieving this). In addition, restrictive or custodial measures likely to occur at this stage of the procedure are rare and must be taken by the judge "in the interest of the minor." They are:
- Judicial placement of the minor in a reception and observation centre, a rehabilitation centre or a (see Decree No. 2001/109 of 20 March 2001) shelter;
- The custody of the minor is a judicial supervision measure of prohibiting him from going to some circles, meet some people, practice activities related to the act charged, and obliging him to make himself available for justice, e.g. answering the summons of any judicial authority;
- Remand in custody: The concern for rapid social reintegration of the child led the legislature to make the detention of a minor an exception. Indeed, Article 704 of the CPC envisages this measure for minors aged 12 to 14 years only in cases of assassination, murder or manslaughter and Article 705 does provide it for minors aged 14 to 18 years only if the measure is indispensable. In any case, the best interests of the child should guide the decision of the judge, especially when there is reason to fear for the safety of the child. When detention is unavoidable, the law requires that it takes place only in an appropriate institution. It is under Article 706 of rehabilitation facilities, or in a special section in a prison authorized to accommodate juveniles.
If he is transferred, it must be carried out under conditions favouring the protection of the minor against trauma that may result particularly in inhuman and degrading treatment or exposure to unsavory publicity.
On the judgment of minors, procedural rules have been simplified and harmonized by the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC). Thus the Court of First Instance acting in juvenile delinquency jurisdiction over all types of offenses committed by the minors aged ten years and under 18 years of age, except when involved in the same case as accomplices or major sponsors. This court is composed of a heterogeneous collegiality including magistrates and judges. These assessors are appointees, "known for their interest in children's issues or for their expertise in this area," whose role is to advise the judge, whose opinion must be taken into consideration in judicial decisions. (See art 710 CPC). In addition, to ensure a fair trial and the protection of privacy of the minor, the legislature has provided systematic appointment of a counsel and limited advertising particularly the need for in camera hearing.
Furthermore, measures and penalties that the Court may impose on the minor after the judgment must proceed from the interests of rapid social rehabilitation of the latter. They are mentioned in articles 724-730 of the CPC and vary according to the age of the minor, the nature of the offense and depending on whether it is a recurrence or not. Some prohibit freedom but most are real alternatives to imprisonment. These alternatives are simple admonition / reprimand, placement of the child in an institution of rehabilitation, probation, placement in a vocational school or care, preventive engagement, or the award of custody to his parents, guardian, custodian or any trustworthy person. In any case, the judge is advised to focus on measures that would appear to be natural life for the child, and only opt for institutional solution as a last resort.
Regardless of the type of offense, a 10-year-old minor enjoys an irrefutable presumption of criminal responsibility.
IV. Prevention and management of the phenomenon
The prevention of the phenomenon of Children in Conflict with the Law, as well as its management, calls the family as the first part of socialization as well as the community, the government, the children themselves, the media, private structures catering for children, civil society, regional and local authorities, and religious denominations.
• Parents should be aware of their responsibilities vis-à-vis their children. It is, for example, strengthening the capacity of children to fulfill their duties and responsibilities, providing them the culture of effort, inculcating in them respect for the freedom of others, the love of country and positive socio-cultural values (love of parents, respect for elders ...).
• For their part, children should know that if they have rights, they also have duties. The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child states in Article 31 that: "Every child has responsibilities towards his family, society, the State and other legally recognized communities and towards the international community" . These obligations include respect for institutions, legal norms and social norms of their membership companies.
• The community must promote social cohesion and solidarity towards members in difficulty, thus the management of benign forms of social maladjustment by secondary social networks, when parents are overwhelmed;
• The means of government actions in the prevention and treatment of juvenile social maladjustment are not limited to the establishment of the legal framework that we discussed. Parents can receive technical support in the management education of their children in hand by, for instance, going towards social centers of their subdivision of residence. Social Action Services with Police Stations, the courts and correctional institutions provide among other things psychosocial support in the administrative chain of juvenile justice. Government institutions that cater for minors and for the rehabilitation of socially maladjusted juveniles provide assessment of their situation and the restructuring of their personality to better rehabilitation. Administrations involved also develop programmes to strengthen the capacity of parents to play their role, such as parental education programme, the programme for the education of the people on responsible parenthood, the proposed fight against the phenomenon of street children. This would allow children to avoid harmful behaviours.
• Acting as an extension of state action, private childcare structures increase national capacities for the institutional care of social maladjusted children for reintegration.
• The civil society must continue to advocate the respect and achievement of children's rights, promote family harmony and ensure the relay messages from the Government within communities.
• In granting relief from the state to indigent families and supporting them in achieving income-generating activities, the Regional and Local Authorities are tackling the issue of poverty as an indirect determinant of juvenile social maladjustment (slip the child to the streets in search of daily bread and exposure to promiscuity with other offenders).
• Faiths contribute to the prevention of juvenile social maladjustment by educating the flock on family harmony and responsible parenthood.