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A Brief History and Overview of Juvenile Delinquency and the Juvenile Justice System in Malaysia

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History of Juvenile Delinquency

The history of juvenile delinquency was dated back in 1700s. In 1704, Pope Clement XI has introduced a practice called ‘profligate youth’ to ensure that youth will become useful individuals to the society. Later in 1756, Marine Society of England has established an institution called ‘Ragged Schools’ to help juvenile offenders. In the same way, in 1825, the revolution has started in New York. The New York law has established ‘House of Refuge’ to help juveniles, who are involved in the crime. Now, the same House of Refuge was changed into American Reformatory School. Though initiatives have taken in 1700s and early 1800s, the actual force of this movement has started in late 1800s when most of the governments have given legislative recognition to laws, which are related to juvenile delinquency.

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Juvenile Delinquency in Malaysia

Juvenile delinquency has been one of the most discussed topics in most of the developing countries like Malaysia. It has become a major concern for common public, law officers and government also. Though Malaysia is a country with strong growth rates in economy and stable political environment, juvenile delinquency has become a major concern for Malaysian Government because it will affect the provisions of future generation. Juvenile delinquency arises when a child involves in some kind of offence . As per the statistics of Malaysia, nearly 14, 691 children, who were in involved in some of other kinds of unlawful acts, were arrested in between 2002 and 2004.

Children between 16 to 18 years of age are involved in nearly 80% of these reported cases. Government of Malaysia has taken some effective steps and implemented wide-range of acts to reduce the juvenile delinquency cases as well as to protect the rights of child in treatment delinquent. The Malaysian Child Act 2001 and 2002 has really helped the government to reduce the number of juvenile cases to 427 in 2008. The reported number of juvenile cases is 427, 567 and 668 for years 2008, 2009 and 2010 respectively. To treat the delinquency, Malaysian Government has been taking effective steps such as arranging out-reach programs, community participation and educating parents about parenting skills etc. The juvenile justice system in Malaysia has been constantly working towards the protection of rights of children in treatment of delinquent

Before focusing on the Child Crime, Juvenile Justice System and Convention on the Rights of the Child in Treatment Delinquent in Malaysia, it is important to emphasize on crime and basis for criminal accountability. A crime is nothing but an unlawful activity which is intentionally done by an individual .Criminal accountability emphasizes on making the person, who involved in the crime, accountable for the unlawful act that he or she has done. Once it is proved that the person is accountable for the crime, he or she will be punished. Criminal Accountability rests on three major base points. They are; Committing a crime, committing the crime with free consent and the crime is committed by an adult or a sensible person who can clearly understand what is wrong and what is right .

Juveniles or Children and their Criminal Liability in Malaysia

According to Section-2 of Malaysian Child Act 2002, a child is a person who is under the age of 18 years. Similarly, according to the Section-82 of Penal Code Act 574, any person, who is under the age of 18 years, will not be considered as an adult and people, who are below 18 years of age, are not liable for punishment. Section 82 of Malaysian Child Act 2002 has also mentioned that no act is an offence if it is done by a child, who is under 10 years of age. In Malaysia, Section-2 of Malaysian Child Act 2002 will give an absolute protection to children below 10 years from being prosecuted and punished because this law makes it clear that a child below 10 years is not capable of committing a crime .

Even if children below 10 years of age commit a crime, it is not considered as a crime because at below 10 years of age, they will not be in a situation to understand the nature and consequence of the unlawful act. In this case the child as to submit the birth certificate to show that he or she is below 10 years old. In the same way, the Section 83 of Malaysian Child Act 2002 says that the government gives conditional protection to the child, who is above 10 years and below 12 years of age, if he or she commits an unlawful activity. If the children are above 12 and below 18 years of age, they are accountable to the crime only when the have criminal background. At this juncture, even if the crime is proved, as per the Malaysian Child Act 2001, the procedure of punishment that these children receive will be different from adults .

Yes, in Malaysia, as per the Malaysian Child Act 2001, the criminal liability of children is very different from adults; be it the way of proceedings or sentencing, there is a huge difference in court procedures for adults and children. If the child is a suspect, in Malaysia, it is not allowed police to arrest or detain. The regulations will also not agree to present the offender into regular courts. As per the Malaysian Child Act 2001, if a child is alleged to have committed the offence, he or she must be produced in a special court, which is only dedicated to interrogate children. These courts are called as the Court for Children in Malaysia. Moreover, it is not permissible for any news paper or a news channel to publish the news related to juvenile’s name, address, school details etc.

As Malaysian laws do not agree to impose the same punishments, which are given to adults, to juvenile, as per the Section 91 (1) of Child Act 2001 of Malaysia, the special Court of Child will impose following punishments upon proving the offence of a child based on the severity of the offense.

  1. The Court may ask the children to pay compensation or fine
  2. The Court may ask the children to attend a specific approved school that improves the behavior of the children.
  3. The Court may order the child to be with parents, guardian or a specific person for a period of time.
  4. The Court will have the jurisdiction right to imprison the child if he or she is above 14 years based on the severity of the crime.

Practices used in Malaysia to Comply with Convention on Rights of the Child in Treatment Delinquent

Convention on the rights of child is a human rights treaty which emphasizes creating regulators for economic, social, civil, cultural and health rights of children. To be in compliance with the Convention on of Rights of Child (CRC), the juvenile justice system has been using wide-range of practices . Malaysia has one among 194 countries which have adopted Convention on of Rights of Child. With the help of local laws, Malaysia has been adopting different approaches to treat problems such as increasing child delinquent. Implementation of the Malaysian Child Act 2001 is said to be the primary and foremost step towards the protection of children rights in Malaysia. While the Malaysian Child Act 2001 not only imposes severe punishments for child trafficking, abuse, discrimination and molestation but also endeavors to protect children when are alleged to have committed an unlawful activity.

The juvenile justice system of Malaysia has recognized that most of the children are participating unlawful activities majorly because of poverty, peer group influence, lack of education, surrounding environment and family background . According to the factors collected from Henry Gurney School, most of the children, who are committed crimes, are individuals who live in small residences and lead uncomfortable live at home. These children, apparently, search for comforts outside of the residence. Poverty and unlawful activities of children are also closely related. In some cases, the financial burdens at home demand children to tempt towards stealing and participating in other unlawful activities. Peer groups will also have huge influence on young children because at the age of 12 or 13, children show more interest to learn new things. At this juncture, children will get adapted to different cultures without bothering much about good or bad .

Taking all these issues into consideration, the Malaysian Government has made changes to the existing laws and regulations. The changes made in the legal system of protecting rights of children have shown encouraging results in decreased number of cases of child delinquent. Some of the major fundamental human right acts such as prohibition of slavery, prohibition of child labor, liberty of person and right for education have brought tremendous changes in Malaysia. All these changes are attributed to ratification of Convention on the Rights of Child.

Putra Module

As the laws and juvenile justice system of Malaysia don’t allow children of below 14 years of age to send to prisons, rehabilitation programs have gained huge importance. Juveniles will be given an opportunity to correct their wrongdoing behavior by attending these rehabilitation centers organized by approved organizers . Initially, this rehabilitation plan was developed by The Prison Department of Malaysia to given an opportunity to young prisoners. This rehabilitation plan was named as Putra Module. After witnessing the encouraging results from the Putra Module, the Juvenile Justice System has given jurisdiction rights to the Courts of Children to send special schools such as The Henry Gurney School, which are known for attitude building, skills development and creating awareness about misconducts to children. The Putra Module is said to be one of the successful integrated approaches that have been helping the juvenile justice system of Malaysia to be in compliance with CRC.

By arranging these rehabilitation schools, the juvenile justice system of Malaysia has been trying to comply with the convention on rights of child while treating delinquent because the rehabilitation center is known for changing offensive children to normal children by protecting the rights of children such as standard of living, healthcare, education, play and recreation . These rehabilitation centers organized by Malaysian Government will also focus on freedom of speech, freedom from fear, freedom of thought and freedom of choice etc. Thus, any juvenile, who undergo rehabilitation programs will not miss any freedom which is enjoyed by normal children.

Discipline Building Program

This program is majorly developed with main objective converting prisoners, who aged between 14 and 18, into disciplined individuals. As per the juvenile justice system, the discipline building system goes on for three months and covers programs such as motivation model, physical building module, information module and spiritual module. Some of the major activities involved in the discipline building program include civic classes, moral classes, motivation classes and spiritual classes .

Character Reinforcement Program

This program is primarily developed to produce individuals, who have strong self identity and is implemented for 6 to 12 months because it takes more time to teach about self identify and attitudes . The juvenile justice system of Malaysia has included this module in the Putra to produce children who have strong self identity and positive attitude because when they are free from the bond or rehabilitation center or prison, they need to live with positive attitudes in the society . Instilling moral values is another major aim of this module. Some of the major activities involved in the character reinforcement program include civic classes, moral classes, motivation classes, team building classes, skill-based classes and spiritual classes. In this module, tutors will endeavor to understand interest areas and existing skill of children before offering them courses in skill sets.

Community Program

As most of the children commit unlawful activities because they are unable to assimilate with the society. Thus, the major aim of this program is to prepare children in such a way they will participate in the communities and local groups once they are released from prison. In addition to rehabilitation activities, this program also focuses on preparing individuals to job interviews, participating in sports, community activities and cultural events etc. With the help of these kinds of programs, the juvenile justice system of Malaysia has been successful converting offensive children into normal children so that they will never commit unlawful activities and also lead their rest of life ethically .

To conclude, juvenile delinquency has been one of the serious concerns for countries like Malaysia for past several decades. With the effective juvenile justice system and ratification of Convention on the Rights of the Child, Malaysian Government has successfully changed the existing laws related to rights of children. One of the major laws, Malaysian Child Act 2001 has helped the juvenile justice system of Malaysia to reduce the number of delinquency cases in the country. The domestic laws such as Child Act 2001 and Child Act 2002, by following the regulations of CRC, have been making sure that none of the children, who have committed crime, will get punished similar to adults. These regulations have drawn a clear line between punishments of children and adults.

The implementation of rehabilitation programs has become a revolution in dealing with children, who have committed unlawful activities. The special Courts of Children in Malaysia focuses on sending children to reputed rehabilitation centers rather than sending to prisons because the rehabilitation centers, by using training modules such as community participation program, character reinforcement program and discipline development program, have been contributing a lot to changing attitudes of children. In most of the prisons, which are dedicated to children, rehabilitation programs have become one of the routines in Malaysia. The ratification of Convention on Rights of the Children is said to be major reason behind significant changes in the way Malaysian Government approach towards children those are committed crimes.

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