While the first day focused on strategies to tackle violence against children, the following day of the Asia-Pacific Council for Juvenile Justice’s Second Meeting was dedicated to a more practice-oriented approach, tackling diversion and alternative policies.
The day started with a Keynote Address delivered by Ms Chiam Heng Keng, former Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Malaysia, who focused on the theoretical background for diversion and alternative measures, recalling how the voluntary basis is essential for the effectiveness of the diversionary approach.
In the course of the first plenary session, Ms Grace Agcaoili, Regional Child Protection Specialist with UNICEF illustrated the international normative framework concerning the recommended measures for children in contact with the law: diversion and alternatives. In particular, she underlined how young people require specific standards of protection, responsive to their ongoing personal development. This should also shift the approach of justice systems, which should be directed towards rehabilitation and the healthy completion of that development process, rather than punishment.
Then, Judge John Walker, who works in the District Court and Youth Court in New Zealand, presented the New Zealand model, characterized by high rates of diversion. He underlined how informal mechanisms of justice, in particular police diversion in his country, constitute a valid and effective alternative to the formal criminal justice proceedings. In this light, he also highlighted specific needs and difficulties that affect young people who tend to be in conflict with the law, such as: early school drop-outs, learning disabilities, dependency on alcohol and other drugs, and called for tailored programmes.
The final plenary session of the morning was dedicated to good practices to avoid children’s deprivation of liberty, involving the community and focusing on reintegration. Ms Kattiya Ratanadilok, Head of Research and Development of the Thai department of Juvenile Observation and Protection, was introduced by Mr Cédric Foussard, the IJJO’s Director of International Affairs. She gave a presentation on Thai reintegration programmes, such as the IRC (Individual Routing Counsellor), and emphasized the relevance of the educational and occupational goal for alternative measures. This model was also inspired by the transversal exchange between the IJJO Continental Councils for Juvenile Justice, and specifically following a visit of the Thai delegation to the Dutch members of the European Council for Juvenile Justice.
She was followed by Ms Siriprakai Worapreecha, Director of the Chiang Mai Juvenile Training School, who illustrated the wide range of activities that this type of facility provides to young people, based on their different needs, aiming to improve their inclusion in the labour market.
Ms Razwana Begum, from the Ministry of Social and Family Development of Singapore, introduced a different perspective based on the social orientation and competencies of the Ministry she represents. She illustrated the four diversionary programs guided by the Ministry, in cooperation with law enforcement agencies.
To conclude the panel, Ms Elfina Sahetapy, from the faculty of law of the University of Surabaya in Indonesia, presented an overview of specific issues of the correctional system, and the heightened risks of secondary victimisation of children. In this context, she underlined the benefits of diversion and advocated for more willingness from public authorities and more effective implementation.
In the afternoon, the participants engaged in a second training session. Once again, under the lead of facilitator Geeta Sekhon, participants divided in five working groups, developing a dialogue and coming up with concrete strategies to improve the implementation of diversionary and alternative measures.
During the course of the day, the IJJO organised a projection of the movie “When you hear my voice”, a Bespoke production dedicated to a restorative experience in a juvenile detention centre in Malta.