A DEVELOPMENTAL APPROACH TO DEALING WITH YOUNG OFFENDERS: AN IMPERATIVE FOR PROBATION PRACTICE AND POLICY FRAMEWORK

Thulane Gxubane

Abstract


The Child Justice Bill (SA Law Commission, B49 of 2002) (CJB) made provision for all
children in conflict with the law to be assessed by a probation officer, thus making it possible to
divert those children who committed serious offences. The re-drafted 2007 CJB,1 in contrast,
excludes children arrested for serious offences from assessment by a probation officer and
therefore denies them the possibility of being diverted from the criminal justice system. This
paper challenges the bifurcation of offences, a policy of separating out the minor offences from
the serious offences with the intention of being tough on the latter. This is one of the key
principles underlying the 2007 CJB, which seems to be informed by the general misconception
that diversion and restorative justice are inappropriate when dealing with serious youth
offences. In contextualising this article,2 a brief historical background to the factors that have
influenced the reform of child justice in South Africa will be provided. Secondly, the role of a
probation officer in relation to policy development, with specific reference to the 2007 CJB,
will be examined. Thirdly, the developmental approach to working with young offenders will
be explored, so as to create a conceptual framework for the central discourse of this article.
Fourthly, the concept of restorative justice as a proposed philosophical and developmental
approach to working with young offenders and its appropriateness in dealing with serious youth
offences will be investigated. The terms “young” and “child” are used interchangeably,
referring to any person less than 18 years of age as stipulated in the Convention on the Rights
of the Child (CRC) (1989) and the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (1996b).
Finally, guidelines are offered that can help probation officers to give effect to restorative
justice

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References


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.15270/46-1-181

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