PGO makes regulatory changes, allowing dismissal of charges against minors

Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem. (Sun Photo/Mohamed Muzain Nazim)

Prosecutor General’s Office (PG Office) has amended their regulation laying down the procedure on criminal cases involving juveniles – to allow the Office to dismiss charges against juvenile offenders enrolled in the diversion program.

Procedures with regard to minors the criminal justice system is laid out in the Juvenile Justice Act which came into force in 2020 – which covers a wide range of policies and procedures with regard to juvenile offenders.

Juvenile Justice Act states that in taking action against children found in violation of the Act, priority must be given to rehabilite and reintegrate them back to the society.

The Act details that this must be achieved through a diversion program; for which it has a separate chapter.

Aims of diversion include encouraging juvenile offenders to have responsibility for the consequences of their actions, granting the opportunity to apologize and providing guidance to prevent reoffense and possible future criminal record.

As per the Act, cases involving minor suspects must be forwarded from one stage to the other, after a decision is taken on diversion.

Whilst investigative bodies and PG Office are empowered to make decisions on diversion – there are assessments and documentations which needs to be fulfilled before the decision is reached. The Act details how this process must be carried out.

However, the Act fails to provide a timeframe under which charges must be filed. Therewith, the Criminal Procedure Code is referred to, with respect to this timeframe.

PG Office, on Thursday, stated that the regulations amended yesterday were their regulation on criminal cases involving juveniles, and the regulation stipulating the procedure on prosecution.

The amendment to the regulation on criminal cases involving juveniles reads that in criminal cases with set timeframes for filing charges, if the case falls under the diversion program, the case must be submitted to the court with the diversion plan within this timeframe.

It also stated that the PG Office will have the power dismiss charges in such cases under the Criminal Procedure Code, and criminal procedure regulation.

The amendment brought to the PG Office’s regulation is insertion of a new section to the article on dismissing charges.

The added article states that children provided diversion opportunity under the Juvenile Justice Act, who enteres a diversion agreement with PG Office – can have their charges dismissed if the case is proceeding in accordance with the diversion agreement.

Criminal Procedure Code’s article on dismissing charges states that PG Office has the power to dismiss charges in cases that have already been filed with the court.

The circumstances under which this may be done is specified in the Criminal Procedure Code on prosecution in criminal cases – which fails to mention dismissal of charges in cases that are subject to diversion program. PG Office states that this is due to the fact the regulation was formulated in 2017, before the Juvenile Justice Act came into force.

As per the Office, the new amendment was brought to include this. Therewith, PG Office will initiate diversion efforts after researching criminal cases involving juveniles.

Should the timeframe to file charges expire whilst this work is being undertaken – charges will be filed to meet with deadline whilst simultaneously discussing and executing diversion agreements.

As a result, PG Office states that adequate time is granted regarding making a decision on diversion – whereas the charges will be dropped if a diversion agreement is successfully executed with the child for rehabilitation.

If an agreement is not reached, the case will proceed. If a child is found in violation of a diversion agreement after charges are dismissed – charges will be filed at the court once again.

PG Office states that this power is granted to them through the amendment to the regulation stipulating the procedure on prosecution.

As per the Office, this encourages a child to adhere to the diversion program, whilst also reminding them of legal repercussions should they violate the diversion agreement.

They noted that charges have been filed again at the court with respect to a case of a child violating the diversion agreement.

PG Office states that the amendments help achieve the purpose of the Act, without amending the whole Act; a productive solution within the legal system as they describe.