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(b) Cautions

The Juvenile Justice Act has also introduced a new diversionary measure in the form of cautions at the level of the police. Again this measure is intended to save children accused of nonserious offenses from being processed through the formal criminal justice system. This measure is in the form of informal and formal cautions. An informal caution may be administered verbally and in private by any police officer at a police station, but a formal caution may be administered only by a senior police officer on the recommendation of a probation officer, public prosecutor, or magistrate.[1] There does not seem to be any record of any such cautions ever having been administered, so even if used, the informal and verbal variety may have been the preferred mechanism.

(c) Restitution through service

A further attempt to divert the juvenile from the main justice system is incorporated into the proceedings of the juvenile court if the offense is not a very serious one. Such measures may be imposed upon the recommendations of a probation officer in the social inquiry report, to permit the juvenile to make good any damage that the conduct may have caused. This thus operates as a mechanism for restorative justice and is intended to make the juvenile appreciate the cost of his or her behavior to the victim and to the community at large, by being made to “pay” for what has been lost to the community. The

Act does not specify what such measures might be except that any such measure should not include work that is intended to degrade or dehumanize the juvenile but must be designed to help the juvenile learn the importance of respecting societal rules.[2] In short, the decision to teach the juvenile a lesson should not be motivated by a desire to punish the juvenile with humiliating work but to make the occasion a positive learning experience for such juvenile while ensuring that the community would also derive some benefit.

There are, however, pertinent issues raised by this very enlightened diversionary program as no framework for the institutionalization of this policy has been developed. There is no evidence that any program has been developed so far, whether anyone has ever participated in any of them, and whether any evaluation has been done to ascertain both the utility and cost-effectiveness of any such programs.

  • [1] Section 12 (1)
  • [2] Section 26 (1)
 
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