Uganda: Lack of Remand Home Delays Justice in Lango

A 13-year-old boy accused of defiling a 7-year-old girl has been released from police custody due to lack of children's remand home in Lango Sub-region, Daily Monitor has learnt.

The boy, who had already spent two weeks at Lira Central Police Stationmade his initial appearance in court three weeks ago.

The District Police Commander, Mr George Obia, said police in Lira only have a reception centre for children. The northern region has only one remand home in Gulu.

"Once we produce them in courts of law, it is at the discretion of the magistrate to know where they are supposed to be kept. The magistrate can either hand them over to the parents or the guardians or otherwise," he said last week.

"So, whatever happens to a child in court will be beyond the police. It will be between the magistrate and the probation officer to decide in the best interest of the child including where the child can be kept although under normal circumstances, they are supposed to be taken to a remand home," Mr Obia says.

The Resident State Attorney, Ms Gloria Akello, says because of lack of a remand home, children that get into conflict with the law are often freed.

"Most times when they are released, they rarely come back and for children, there is nothing like arrest warrant issued if they fail to report back," she says. "Sometimes those offended by these children would not want to see them in society again after committing crimes," she adds.

Ms Akello says most cases registered in court involving juvenile criminals rarely get concluded.

"When these children are mixed together with adults, they share contact with hardcore criminals and when they are released they form an organised group of criminals," the resident state attorney notes.

"So, instead of reforming, their minds end up getting corrupted by the hardcore criminals," she says.

The Dokolo senior community development officer, Ms Judith Amuge, says juvenile offenders cannot reform if not separated from adults.

To address the challenge, the Lira District leadership in 2012, secured six acres of land for the construction of a remand home in Central Division, Lira Municipality.

Mr George Okello Ayo, the district vice chairperson, however, says the district has since failed to source funds for its construction.

"I held a meeting with judges but they said it's the responsibility of the district to source for the money. We want to sit down and write a project proposal to non-governmental organisations that can help us construct this remand home," he says.

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