The uniqueness of the juvenile justice system
Speech delivered by Chief Justice Dr Shirani
A Bandaranayake, at the opening of the Juvenile Court in Jaffna on
November 17, 2011.
It is indeed a great pleasure to be amongst you in this enchanting
city of Jaffna. I have very pleasant memories of my visits to this city
as a child with my family members and it was with a great sense of
contentment that I accepted this invitation.
Chief Justice Dr Shirani A Bandaranayake
For the Judiciary, as a whole, today marks a very important day as
this is the very first Juvenile Court we are opening in the Northern
peninsula. It is also to be noted that this is the only such Court in
the country, in addition to the Juvenile Court at Battaramulla in
Colombo. Today’s event therefore could be regarded as a historic moment
for our Judiciary.
No one would disagree with the view expressed by Sophocles that
children are the anchors that hold a mother to life.
Mothers would, no doubt agree with me, how true this expression is,
even in today’s context. We cannot also forget what Sigmund Freud had
stated about children; that they are completely egoistic, that they feel
their needs intensely and strive ruthlessly to satisfy them. These
statements clearly show the value of a child as well as the need to deal
with them in a special manner.
This should be the situation with regard to the criminal justice
system. Due to some unfortunate and/or unforeseen situation if a child
gets involved in a crime, if the country does not have a specialized
juvenile justice system, children in conflict with the law would be
dealt with in the same manner as the Courts would be dealing with the
However, countries where the juvenile justice system has been
adopted, acts differently, as that would develop a unique system of
criminal justice which would treat children in a manner appropriate to
their age and level of maturity. Such a system would also incorporate
institutions and systems designed to achieve this objective.
Two other matters also would be important in this regard.
Firstly, a well established juvenile justice scheme would include
multiple, inter-connected systems. This would include, in addition to
the Courts, the Police, the prosecutors, the lawyers, the social
workers, probation officers, the juvenile officers as well as the jails
and prisons. Each of these institutions, whilst holding them as
independent units, would have to join as a team, having the juvenile’s
welfare as their paramount interest and importance.
For the success of this exercise, it is quite understandable that all
these independent units would have to actively participate and assist
each other independently as well as collectively, having the welfare of
the juvenile as the main objective in mind.
Secondly it would be necessary to consider carefully the kind of
punishment that should be meted out to a young offender. Although the
criminal justice system in many countries are retributive, it would be
necessary to consider applying restorative justice for young offenders.
This would give the opportunity for the young offender to rehabilitate
himself as it diverts the offender away from the formal criminal justice
At the same time through a Juvenile Court, it would be possible for
the magistrate to consider alternatives to detention and how care,
guidance, probation, supervision orders; family reunions for the young
offender could be provided.
With the opening of the new Court House for the Juvenile Court in
Jaffna, all these could be used for the betterment of our society. If
not for the painstaking efforts taken by the Minister of Justice, the
Secretary to the Ministry of Justice and its other officials this
beautiful building would not have been a reality.
I am aware that the construction process was not an easy task for
them to carry out. However, amidst many other matters in hand the
Ministry of Justice had not only found the finances, but also the time
and other assistance to ensure that this building would be ready to be
opened before the end of this year for the Juvenile Judge to commence
work as early as possible.
For judges and lawyers, I am certain that the Ministry of Justice
would make every endeavour to include space for a library at every Court
House and provide them with the necessary books and law reports for the
judges and the lawyers.
This would no doubt, enhance the quality of the decisions and enrich
our judicial process in the country. It would also be necessary to take
steps to construct residential facilities for judges and adequate office
space for lawyers, which would assist them to carry out their respective
functions more efficiently.
Since the Ministry of Justice had carried out more than its fair
share, in bringing out this new building, now it is the duty of the
Judicial Service Commission to take steps to appoint the Juvenile Judge
and his staff. We will take steps early to do so and shall render all
the necessary assistance not only to make it a reality, but also a
We have taken several measures to give a proper training for our
judges, at the time of their recruitment as well on later occasions for
specific needs as and when they arise. When training programmes are
structured, steps have been taken to include juvenile justice as well,
since it is an important area which is necessary to develop and improve.
We Sri Lankans have had hard times and throughout several centuries
we have moved forward with several achievements to our credit. At a time
when lasting peace is upon us, we must extend our fullest support in
improving our systems in order to eradicate our shortcomings. Let me
assure you that together with all of you I will leave no stone unturned
to fulfill the inspirations for justice of the people of mother Lanka.