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Challenges faced by juvenile courts in enhancing justice for juvenile offenders

 

Access to justice is among the fundamental human rights of all human beings including children, and is the basis of protecting their other rights. Therefore, a responsive justice system spearheaded by child friendly courts is what is needed to make the difference.Since justice is not only about preventing crime but also includescontributingto public safety.The justice system remains largely unresponsive to the justice needs of the juvenile offender. As a result, many children continue to suffer long terms of incarceration and as a result become misfits intheir families and communities.  The law on the other hand mandates that child related matters are handled expeditiously by any court or tribunal to promote the best interest of the child.

Uganda has one of the youngest and most rapidly growing populations in the world; with 57 percent of its population under the age of 18 and about half (48.7 percent) under the age of 15. Due to lack of basic necessities this underage population streams the street in search of survival whichoften times translates into a life of crime. The justice system was not designed to cater for children and therefore processes juvenile offenders as if they were adultswhichcontravenes the international and regional treaties Uganda has ratified and domesticated.

 

The study was conductedin the districts of Kampala, Mukono and Wakiso and stakeholders in the juvenile justice were contacted as sources of information. The findings in the study indicated that the practical application of the legal provisionshas lagged behind the vision of the drafters to safeguard children’s rights in the criminal justice system.