What are the differences between Children’s Court and the ordinary Criminal Court?
The purpose of the Children’s court is to rehabilitate young offenders and help them resume appropriate behaviour in society and avoid future run-ins with the criminal court system. This does not mean, however, that children cannot be punished for their offenses. In fact, children can be punished by requiring them to do community service, attending drug and violence rehabilitation classes, and sometimes, they are sent to prison when the crime is serious.
In the children’s court, the public is not allowed to attend the hearings. Trials are private and no other person, apart from the court may record the proceedings.
If your child is facing a criminal charge, please engage legal counsel for them. The lawyers at Bitala & Co have extensive experience in working with children in the children’s court system, and we shall work with you to ensure the best possible outcome. Do not forget that we give free legal consultation on all matters, here.
What should I do if my child has been accused of a crime?
The first thing you should do is consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer from Bitala & Co. An experienced criminal defence attorney is important to help your child avoid self-Incrimination, prevent your child from making false confessions, and to earn your child’s trust. Here at Bitala& Co. we have come to learn (from experience that providing accurate information to our young clients, they are less afraid and more willing to seek help and treatment if necessary. Good legal representation also helps children to know that allegations, and mistakes do not ruin their lives.
Engaging a lawyer does not mean that you think your child is guilty, that you don’t believe in the system, or that you do not want your child to suffer the consequences of their actions. Instead, engaging a lawyer protects your child from hard prosecution which may lead to unfair punishment. In court, the job of the police and the prosecutor is to present a case against your child. The role of the judge is to evaluate evidence presented before him. Without an experienced lawyer from Bitala & Co., there will be no one in court to represent the interests of your child.
What should I do if my child has been accused of a sex crime, or I think they may have committed a sex crime?
As a precautionary measure, remove your child from any situation which may be problematic. Specifically, prevent your child from being alone with other minors. This will help to protect your child from any other accusations.
Then, have your child speak to a lawyer, first. Whereas councillors, the police and religious leaders are good people to talk to, it is important that your child speaks to an experienced lawyer from Bitala & Co. first for the following reasons: protect their right to confidentiality, to protect them from being pressure into a false confession, and to avoid a situation where the child may exaggerate the facts.
Can the police officer speak with my child without my knowledge or permission?
Yes. The police are mandated to question anyone, children included. However, their questioning must be subject to reasonable suspicion that the person witnessed or participated in the crime. Questioning your child does not mean that your child is accused. Remember, your child also has rights just like the adults when being questioned by the police. These rights include the right to remain silent, and the right to legal representation. We have written widely on the rights of an accused person.
Is a parent financially responsible for a child’s illegal acts or court fees?
It follows that when a child is required to pay bail or to pay a fine or compensation for their wrongs, their parents may be the ones to meet those costs.
BY SAMALI BITALA
This article appears in our law newsletter Vol 3 Issue 1 of March 3rd 2018. To receive The Deuteronomy in real time, click HERE