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LEGAL TRAINING: MAGISTRATES

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LT Magistrates_Group 2

 by Joti Kohli

As our friends and supporters you know VoC is involved in enhancing justice for children through strengthening the legal and judicial systems. After our very successful training of Lawyers we had our first training of Magistrates on the Child and Youth Justice System in Malaysia during the weekend of 5-7 September.

Organized in collaboration with The Training and Judicial Capacity Development Unit, Policy, Training and Strategic Planning Division, Federal Court of Malaysia, Istana Kehakiman, Putrajaya, the workshop was once again facilitated by Dr. Farah Nini Dusuki with the assistance of Puan Asnida Suhaimi. Forty court of children magistrates from all over Malaysia participated in a very interactive and stimulating workshop.

Farah and Asnida

Dr. Farah and Puan Asnida

The workshop focused both on children who come in contact with the law (child victims and witnesses), as well as those who come in conflict (child offenders) with the law.  Highlighting the main principles of child justice, Dr. Farah emphasized the importance of handling children’s cases with their rights and best interest always in mind.

There were two high points of the workshop; one being the study trip to Tuanku Budriah, Tunas Bakti and Kajang Prison, and the other the module on Child Development and Neuroscience and the Law.  The visits were especially enlightening for many of the magistrates as this was their first visit to these institutions. Seeing first hand where the children end up after they administer their orders was especially interesting which came through in the feedback session after the visits.

There were some thoughts about the need to separate the lock up area and common area at the Sekolah Tunas Bakti. Some felt that the very foundation of the Sekolah Tunas Bakti is compromised, by this.

Sharmila

Sharmial Sekaran, VoC Chair

Good efforts had been put in to maintain the infrastructure of these places, however there seems to be a clear shortage of staff/caregivers especially in Tuanku Budriah and Sekolah Tunas Bakti.

Not having been exposed to Child Development and the new research on children and their brain development, participants were especially grateful for the exposure to this knowledge, even though neuroscience remains controversial in the justice systems of Europe and the US where it has made an entrance.

The Module consuming most of the time was the one on Sentencing.  It was emphasized to the Magistrates that they should consider detention only as a last resort and weigh the options of sending a child to Prison, Henry Gurney or Tunas Bakti very carefully.

ParticipantParticipant 2Participant 3Participant 4Participant 5Participant 7Participant 8Participant 9Participant 6

A discussion ensued at length about the role of a Magistrate, not only to be responsible for deciding what sentence to give the child offender, but also to:

  • counsel the child in a child friendly manner,
  • make certain the sentence or charge is clearly explained to the child in appropriate language/manner,
  • to include the key  principles of justice for children, in deciding the appropriate sentence for the child.

Overall the workshop was a success and VoC wishes to thank all the magistrates for their participation and contributions, and Dr. Farah and Puan Asnida for yet another excellent job in facilitating the workshop.  Finally, a special thank you goes to Puan Rasyihah Ghazali for providing VoC this opportunity and we look forward to further such collaborations with the Mahkamah Persekutuan Malaysia.

 

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