In 2010, The Government of Jamaica (GoJ) created a four year National Plan of Action for Child Justice (2010 to 2014). The National Plan of Action was prompted by the concerns of the State regarding the protection and care of children as articulated by various advocacy groups, social workers and caregivers. Concomitantly, the increase in violence by children and against them caused significant concerns among the public and State officials who noted the shocking and unpredictable nature of criminal conduct involving children throughout the country.
The number of children in need of care and protection overwhelmed the social services and the judicial system. The effectiveness of the treatment of children entering the justice system whether they sought the protection of the law or were in conflict with the law called for urgent scrutiny, evaluation and a plan to effect meaningful changes. The goal of the Plan of Action was to develop and sustain a justice system that considered the best interest of the child in the administration of Justice.
The National Child Diversion Programme
In support of the National Plan of Action, the Ministry of Justice developed and implemented the National Child Diversion Programme. Diversion to put the child offender on a path away from the criminal justice system and its attendant negative features. Under the Child Diversion Programme, a Child Diversion Committee has been established in all fourteen parishes, with Kingston and St Andrew sharing a committee. These Committees are designed to keep (or “divert”) children who are accused of minor offences away from the criminal justice system.
The composition of a Diversion Committee is as follows:
- Justice of the Peace;
- Probation Officer;
- Children's Officer;
- Minister of Religion;
- School Guidance Counselors;
- Police Officer; and
- An expert as needed.
The National Diversion Policy:
The purpose of this Policy is to establish a formal framework for dealing with children in conflict with the law throughout the criminal justice process, ensuring that detention or institutionalization is a measure of last resort in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Also, it must recognize the best interest of the child.
Definition of Child Diversion:
“Child Diversion” is the exercise of implementing measures for dealing with children, alleged as, accused of, or recognized as having infringed the penal law without resorting to formal judicial proceedings. It is considered to be in the interest of individuals, and not contrary to the “public interest” to use some form of ‘alternative measures to deal with these categories of offenders. Diversion of children provides greater benefit, in most cases, to the offender, victim and society than would the formal criminal process.
The Goals of the National Child Diversion programme are:
GOAL I: To reduce the number of children who are charged with offences and exposed to the formal criminal justice system, as a result.
GOAL II: To increase the use of diversionary programmes that re-habilitate children as a response to crime and wrongdoing.
GOAL III: To mandate State agencies and encourage non-governmental and community-based organizations to become active participants in providing services and programmes to children.
GOAL IV: To protect the rights of the child in keeping with international instruments and protocols.
GOAL V: To empower communities to take a more active role in dealing with child offenders with anti-social behaviour.
The programme helps youth by assessing their situation and then using a combination of approved methods to get that child back on track. Treatment methods include:
• making oral or written apologies
• accepting the supervision or guidance of a mentor
• refraining from association with certain persons or places
• attending a vocational or educational institution
• attending counselling or therapy sessions with a specified person
• community service
• drug abuse counselling
The full schedule of treatment options under the Child Diversion programme is listed in the Child Diversion Act, 2018.
The Act also outlines eligibility requirements for the programme and those offences for which one can be referred to Child Diversion. The Act can be found here.
Please click the link for the Child Diversion Offices