Youthful Offenders Bill tabled for second reading
By Gagani Weerakoon and Methmalie Dissanayake
Justice Minister Ali Sabry presented the Youthful Offenders (Training Schools) (Amendment) Bill and the Penal Code (Amendment) Bill to Parliament yesterday (21) for the second reading.
The Youthful Offenders (Training Schools) (Amendment) Bill aims at amending the age limit previously established as below 18 to age between 18-22 years. The Bill also amends for the purpose of being gender neutral. The amendment to the Penal Code establishes provisions to replace the verdict of death sentence being given to minors replacing it with custodial sentences. Minister Ali Sabry said discrepancies in defining child and youth mentioned in the said Ordinances are not in favour of the legal system in the country.
“This has put us in a bad light in the international arena. Imprisoning those who are found guilty, but below eighteen is not compatible with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Also, female youthful offenders are kept with adult female offenders and it is a violation of their rights,” he said. Youthful offenders should not be kept with adult offenders.
That is why it is important to recognise youthful offenders and send them for rehabilitation. Earlier, this method was only applied to male youthful offenders. With these amendments, female youthful offenders shall also be directed to a separate entity for rehabilitation instead of placing them with adult female offenders, Ali Sabry said.
Speaking on the amendments to the Penal Code which give provisions to replace the verdict of death sentence being given to minors replacing it with custodial sentences, Ali Sabry pointed out that there have been instances where an offender has committed a crime before turning 18, but was given the death sentence, as they have passed the age limit during the legal process. “This should not happen and the amendments to the Penal Code will solve the matter,” he said.