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Hearings

The essence of the juvenile court sitting in private, in separate premises, or on days different from those of the district court and exclusion of the public is to preserve the privacy of the hearing. In addition to the list of persons permitted to be present, the informality of the proceedings is affirmed by the introduction of a new provision prohibiting the wearing of police uniforms by police officers on duty in a juvenile court. A hearing is not expected to last longer than 3 months in an ordinary case or 6 months if it involves murder. A failure to hear and dispose of the case within the statutory period may result in the juvenile being unconditionally discharged. The exclusive jurisdiction of the juvenile court over juveniles in most matters is maintained, but as has always been the case, there are important exceptions.

A juvenile is entitled, ordinarily, to be granted bail unless there is a danger of the juvenile not appearing to answer the charge, or the possibility of committing further offenses or has the potential for interfering in, or hampering the investigations by the police. Such interference may take the form of threatening witnesses or tampering with the evidence. The conditions for bail are, however, not strenuous and may even be on the juvenile’s own recognizance. Where bail is not granted, the juvenile may be remanded into the care of a parent, relative, or other fit persons or, as a last resort, to a remand home. Even when remanded into the care of a relative or parent, the juvenile is deemed to be in custody and can be apprehended without a warrant if he or she attempts to escape. The Act, in fact, incorporates the directions on the grant of bail to juveniles handed down by the high court, e.g., in the old case of Osei v. Republic,[1] where a juvenile court was held to have acted unlawfully, in remanding the juvenile to custody when the final penalty could not have been higher than a fine, and when there were responsible adults ready and willing to take her into their care. Under the current legislation, it would be impossible to commit a juvenile to custody for a minor offense such as the appellant had committed.

  • [1] [1971] G.L.R.34
 
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