The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) over the week hosted a concentrated four-day ‘child protection’ training for over 195 law enforcement officers from the Liberia National Police to further reinforce their roles and familiarize them with the concept of child protection.
The training, which looked at objectives and concepts of child protection, an issue that has been categorized by MOJ as being of “major concern,” brought together police officers from the 15 counties to three centralized locations (Montserrado, Bong and Maryland) for the exercise.
“The training is to highlight the role of the police who have the first point of contact with children and juveniles. The training includes the introduction to basic report writing, interviewing techniques and record keeping,” stated Child Justice Coordinator at MOJ, Alben Greaves.
Also, Mr. Greaves acknowledged that the Child Justice section in the past launched a Diversion Guideline that highlighted the role of each actor, and based on this, trainings have been conducted for Magistrates, City Solicitors, Correction and Police Officers.
Meanwhile, in attendance at the official opening of the training were: Deputy Minister for Administration and Public Safety, Cllr. Wheatonia Dixon Barnes; trainer and facilitator, Eunice Dahn; and Deputy Head of Section/WACPS Det. Supt Alieu Bility; amongst others.
According to Mr. Greaves, the LNP is responsible to help protect children from being victimized and to improve the investigation of child abuse cases.
“The intent of this training is to strengthen the capacity of LNP to prevent and respond to child protection issues across the country. Child protection in Liberia is a major concern that, if not addressed, will severally affect the ability of the next generation of young people to become productive and useful citizens,” he said.
“Implementation of diversion and other alternative measures to incarceration needs collaborative efforts. The police, especially the women and children protection section, has a crucial role to play in juvenile justice issues,” Mr. Greaves stated.
Meanwhile, Cllr. Wheatonia Y. Dixon Barnes added that the Diversion Program started a few years ago and the impact it is making in the various communities that the child justice system has been reaching out to in the counties is encouraging.
“We have children who are on the street and get into problems with the law and most are minor problems. Sometimes they are thrown in jail for these minor acts.
“This program is a buffer in between going straight to jail and monitoring and assisting these young people to help them realize that we are here to assist them through the process, not just [to send them] straight to jail,” Cllr. Barnes added.
Minister Barnes then acknowledged that working along with social workers and the police are relevant.
“We have to continue doing this to make sure our society gets back on track. We shouldn’t forget the role by the judiciary; we’re working with the judiciary to make sure that children who go through a court system will be processed in the Diversion Program.
“We continue to work with the parents because they also have a responsibility to their children. Children should spend a lot of time with their parents if they want them to come up,” she added.
According to reports given by MOJ, in 1971 Liberia passed a law to establish a juvenile system creating specific laws to control children under the age of 18. In 1977 the juvenile justice system, including, the court, was finally constituted. Statistics show that there is only one juvenile court and less than 10 juveniles presently incarcerated.
Section 10.1 of the judicial law gives provisional assignment to Magisterial Courts in other counties.
Furthermore, MOJ implemented a Juvenile Diversion program among several other programs to ensure that juveniles in conflict with the law are channeled away from formal judicial proceedings to specially designed programs like counseling, community services, etc.