Fiji Director Of Social Welfare Says Offenders

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Are Skewing Younger
Needs to be focus on rehabilitation over incarceration

By Shalveen Chand

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, July 14, 2014) – At least five juveniles are held in remand at the Boys Centre on the order of the courts, says the Social Welfare Department director Rupeni Fatiaki.

Mr Fatiaki said this trend showed criminal offenders were getting younger.

"If you look now at the number of crimes being committed by juveniles in a week, we have up to five juvenile offenders put in for remand that are waiting for their cases," Mr Fatiaki said.

"This is an increasing trend now, where juveniles are offending more."

According to the cause listings in the courts in Suva, most juveniles are in court for theft-related crimes followed by sexual offences.

Mr Fatiaki was managing the Boys Centre up until 2009 and that is why he believes there needs to be a shift from the current approach if young offenders are to be rehabilitated.

"Instead of giving them a committal sentence, under this act, it can be replaced by placing probationary officers.

"Turaga ni koro are now training as probation officers," he said.

"So instead of incarceration, they spend their time with the community, where they don't miss out school and their education.

"So they stay in the community, supervised by probation officers and the report comes to us and the courts as they progress.

"It has been proven internationally that institutionalising doesn't help.

Also, the Boys Centre will be moving from its current place in Domain to Lakeba St in Samabula by the end of the month.

Currently, before the courts are serious sex offences such as gang rape which involve juvenile as perpetrators.

The last murder involving a juvenile was in 2011 when a 14-year-old was convicted for killing a 13-year-old girl.

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