Former Member of Parliament (MP) for North Dayi, George Loh, is advocating for the training of police personnel in Ghana to handle well matters involving juveniles.
Although he believes there are administration and infrastructural challenges confronting the Juvenile justice system of the country, the private legal practitioner believes the police force is killing the system that puts premium on the rights of minors when they flout the laws of the country.
Mr Loh says there is no effective system that represents juveniles who come into contact with the law in Ghana. This, he attributes to the replacement of the then Women and Juvenile Unit (WAJU) with Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU) which he stated focuses on domestic violence.
The lawyer observed in an interview with Radio XYZ that children are very important members of every country and are also the future leaders hence they should be given special attention when they are in conflict with the law.
He said in such matters “the first line of contact which are the police barely understand the law when it comes to children. So they are treating children as though they were adults.”
Calling for the training, he said “This should be somebody who’s well trained and get refresher courses regularly and understands why they have to treat children differently from the adults,” suggesting that the state institutes a desk at every police station to handle juvenile matters.
Although, children under 18 years are trialled before their parents in order to protect their rights, Mr Loh contended the aftermath of the trial doesn’t help the suspects because of the lack of infrastructure to house juvenile offenders.
He said if the young ones are always kept with adults in prisons instead of keeping them at correctional centres, the teenagers are more likely not to be reformed when they are integrated back into the society.
When the host told him those challenges might have stemmed from the lack of infrastructure to rehabilitate juveniles, Mr Loh slammed the government for not making available those facilities to house children who are trialled and need to undergo correctional processes, saying the state has “lost focus” on re-moulding the character of juvenile offenders.
“If you take a cursory look at our Juvenile system, on paper it looks fairly okay. We’ve signed on to international conventions and what have you… but in practice, implementation wise [it’s] almost zero.”
He said the Social Welfare department is not representing juveniles enough while state officials are also not willing to push for the enactment of laws to address the shortfalls in the system that take care of the reforming of children.
Evaluating the effectiveness of the juvenile system in Ghana, Mr Loh proffered to government agencies in charge of such offices to take a second look at juvenile matters and ensure children are rehabilitated when they are confined by the state for flouting the laws.