Authorities enforce juvenile act

Minors accused of criminal offenses must be held separately

According to the newly ratified Juvenile Delinquency Act, juvenile homes are obliged to provide educational and social programs for the inmates.

By Adnan Shabrawi

Okaz/Saudi Gazette

Top Saudi authorities have issued a directive to segregate juveniles involved in criminal cases from their adult counterparts while being held at detention centers and prisons in the country.

Even if a juvenile was an accomplice in a crime committed by an adult, they should be held separately in prison, according to the directive that came into effective immediately. The order came just after a week after approving and enforcing the newly ratified Juvenile Delinquency Act, which was published in the official gazette 90 days ago.

The Ministry of Justice and the Supreme Judiciary Council have established legal circuits within the criminal courts to deal with cases involving juveniles. The executive regulations of the act are being drafted by five government agencies, including the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Labor and Social Development, Supreme Judiciary Council and the Public Prosecution.

Crimes against morality topped the list of most common offenses committed by juveniles, followed by altercations, traffic accidents and drugs, including their use, possession and dealing. Crimes such as thefts, murders and vandalism came last.

According to the new act, sentences issued against juvenile offenders should be recorded separately and should not be considered as a prior.

The court may at its own discretion or at the request of the juvenile offender›s parent or guardian release the delinquent after he or she served a quarter of the sentence.

Juvenile delinquents must not be detained for more than five days without producing them in courts in normal cases and the prior approval from the attorney general must be obtained if they were to be detained for more than the maximum duration of 15 days.

Sheikh Turki Al-Qarni, a former judge who heard juvenile delinquency cases, said the new act permits judges to issue alternative sentences and gives the juvenile offender the right not to appear before the court and authorize his guardian or parent or lawyer to do so on his behalf.

This step will safeguard the social rights of offenders and protect them against stereotyping arising from court appearances.

The act contains graduated punishment and alternative sentences such as banning the offender from going to certain places or engaging in certain activities for a specific period of time or putting him under surveillance or requiring him to perform certain duties for a period not exceeding three years or admitting him into a social and education institution if he was at least 12 years old when committing the crime.

Juvenile homes must provide educational programs and various activities to inmates in addition to entertainment and cultural programs as well as computer courses and sports programs, according to the act.