Under this component project officers visit police stations and prisons to check for cases involving children. ACJ has an understanding with the Subordinate (Magistrates’) courts, which sit as Juvenile Courts, under which officers from ACJ are invited to attend and monitor trials of children to ensure that children’s rights are safeguarded.
Section 33 of the Criminal Procedure Code states that every individual must appear before the court within 24 hours of his or her initial arrest. Unfortunately, this is often not enforced in practice. Case tracking is one of the major roles of ACJ. Children are vulnerable citizens because they do not have a strong voice in society and when they are treated unfairly, ACJ will become aware through case tracking and address the problem at the appropriate agency like Jesus Cares, Kasis Orphanage, social welfare and Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) to mention a few. ACJ addresses these issues at the subordinate and higher court level to ensure timely court visits and fair trials for children. ACJ also works closely with partners at the Social Welfare Department in order to expedite social welfare reports and the integration of alternative sentencing through their highly considered recommendations to the court. The establishment of effective and fair trials begins as early as the arrest.
Representatives from ACJ make prison visits each week in order to track the cases of child offenders and suspects; we have handled 707 since 2014. By visiting the children consistently, ACJ is able to track the state of the case, ensure that it is moving forward appropriately, and report on the overall well-being of the child. The weekly case tracking help monitor individual cases and the children in remand in order to develop a strategic response to ensure that these cases are processed in a timely manner. Prison visits allow the children to state their concerns, fears, and usually they lack knowledge regarding their cases, so we make it an objective to educate and inform them of the progress of their cases. ACJ has created a comprehensive database in order to track these children as they make their way through the justice system and beyond. Through verifications at the Social Welfare and the Courts we make it one of our priorities to also ensure, in the best way we can, that those whose court orders to attend reformatory schools have been confirmed are transferred without undue delay.
In relation to case tracking, ACJ is aiming at stopping the holding of children in detention or prison without sufficient cause. These children are being held in remand, meaning they are being deprived of their liberty. Even though the Convention on the Rights of the Child states that imprisonment should be the last resort, many children around the world have not been tried but have been held in remand for many months and in some cases without access to legal aid. When ACJ is conducting prison visits, they monitor the children in remand; maintain the numbers on the cases received, accepted and referred and those whose court dates have been adjourned, etc. The ACJ case tracking team helps decrease pre-trial detentions, dispose of more cases, divert the children and make sure they are provided with legal representation. Case tracking encourages the case tracking team and the criminal justice workers to team up and work together to move cases through the system speedily. The purpose of case tracking is to make certain that the justice principles of children laid down are diligently observed and obeyed.