Juvenile Justice in Botswana

The term “juvenile justice” refers to “legislation, norms and standards, procedures, mechanisms and provision, institutions and bodies specifically applicable to juvenile offenders” . On the other hand, the term ‘children in conflict with the law’ refers to “anyone under 18 who comes into contact with the justice system as a result of being suspected or accused of committing an offence” . In 2004, after considering Botswana’s Initial Report, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child indicated under paragraph 60 of the Concluding Observations that while recognizing the efforts made by the State party in the juvenile justice domain, including the establishment of the New School of Industry in 2002 for children in conflict with the law, the Committee was concerned that the juvenile system was not yet compatible with the provisions and principles of the Convention.

Methods This article discusses juvenile justice issues drawn from a Mapping and Analysis of the Justice for Children in Botswana which was commissioned by the Department of Social Services and supported by UNICEF in 2010. The study used largely qualitative research methods which included in-depth interviews with 40 key stakeholders in the area of child protection in Botswana and interviews with key informants.

Results There is an absence of administrative, regulatory and human resource infrastructure to implement the laws for the protection of children’s rights and well-being. The lack of access to justice, absence of procedural guidelines and child protection protocols to supplement children’s legislation, inadequate child victim support systems and witness protection structures and processes, limited non-institutional interventions, lack of proper record keeping, inadequate community support structures and role confusion among service providers have compromised the quality of service delivery to children in conflict with the law in Botswana.

Conclusions Issues of children in conflict with the law are increasingly becoming a growing problem in Botswana. Concerns about these children are widely shared by police officers, social workers, magistrates and judges, as well as the public at large. The concern began to grow since the mid-1980s to date with the statistics showing a dramatic rise in offenses committed by young offenders and the concomitant implementation constraints.