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This section provides a summary of the Youth Courts matters.
The information provided below is general in nature and is not intended as legal advice. The Family Justice Courts cannot provide legal advice or assist with drafting the contents of any document.
References to legislation
Processes and Procedures
Philosophy - Restorative Justice Model
The philosophy of the Youth Courts is that of Restorative Justice which recognises the potential for change and reform in young offenders and delinquent youths. Restorative Justice seeks to re-integrate the young offender or delinquent youth back into their families and community. It seeks to balance the need for effective deterrence versus the need for rehabilitation and restoration.
In Youth Courts, the youths are made accountable for their offending behaviour/misbehaviour and will then take the responsibility for the consequences of that behaviour by making reparations to society, whether by way of community work, or by way of restitution, compensation and apology to the victim. Where appropriate, the youths are made to confront the victim to make them aware of the harm caused by their offending act.
In the Youth Courts process, parents are afforded an important role to play in the reform of the youth. Parents of the offender/delinquent youth are provided the opportunity to take responsibility for their child's behaviour. They are also empowered to play a greater role in the rehabilitation of the youth.
Though the Youth Courts seek the re-integration of the youth offender back into society, it is also mindful of issues of public protection and personal accountability, as well as the individual strengths and limitations of the youths who appear before it. Under Section 28 of the Children and Young Persons Act (CYPA) which defines the jurisdiction of the Youth Courts, the Court takes into account the welfare of the youths brought before it. In addition to removing them from undesirable surroundings, it also makes provision for their education and training.
In recognising the unique role of the Youth Courts in balancing the legislative concerns for the welfare of the youth and its public duty to preserve law and order, The Honourable the Chief Justice Yong Pung How outlined the approach to be taken in his keynote address at the Subordinate Courts' Workplan 1997/1998 that:
"The complexity of youth crime requires a multi-prong approach. It has to incorporate elements of deterrence, incapacitation and rehabilitation. A balance will have to be struck between the need for rehabilitation and accountability for the offending behaviour. Restorative justice seeks to achieve this. We realise that we can never rely alone on laws and punishment to meet the challenge of youth crime. Effective family support and control can help to keep our youths out of crimes in the first place and equip them to lead a law-abiding life. Already this is being done by the Government through the Inter-Ministry Committee on Dysfunctional Families, Youth Delinquency and Drug Abuse. Similarly, on the Court's part, there is a communitarian approach to the treatment of youth offender. Through family conferencing, boot camps, peer group advisers, family care conferencing, we enlist the support and assistance of the community in reforming and rehabilitating the youth offender. We build on this approach through a blend of measures focusing not just on the offender but the victims as well."
Beyond Parental Control
Before the complaint is sworn, the parent and child will be attended to by a Social Worker from the Singapore Children's Society who will try to resolve the matter without the intervention of the Court. In the event that the parents still deem Court intervention necessary, the formal court proceedings to manage Beyond Parental Control (BPC) Cases will then commence.
A complaint can be lodged at the Youth Courts from 1.30pm to 4.00pm on Tuesday afternoons (with effect from 1 April 2017), except public holidays. To lodge a complaint, the parent is required to bring the child along. In the event that the parent is unable to do so, the Youth Court Judge may issue a warrant of arrest with no bail for the child to be brought to the Youth Courts.
The following documents will be required:
What Will Happen when a Youth Fails to Attend Court?
If the whereabouts of the child or young person is unknown or the parent / guardian is unable to get him / her to attend Court, the Court may issue a Warrant of Arrest for the child or young person to be brought to the Youth Courts.
When the warrant is executed and the BPC child is brought to Court, the judge will confirm that the parent / guardian is proceeding with the complaint before calling for a social report prepared by Child Welfare Officers from the Ministry of Social and Family Development.
What Will Happen When A Youth is Arrested and Charged?
Case Flow of Youth Arrest Cases (YAC):
*Family Conferences are convened selectively upon the decision of the judge.
Power of the Court on Youth Arrest Cases
The Youth Courts have the power to make orders for youths where an offence has been proved, or where the youth admits the facts constituting the offence under Section 44(1) of the Children and Young Persons Act (CYPA). During this process, the Youth Courts take into consideration every individual offender's strengths and limitations to make the orders. In broad terms, the factors that the Youth Courts consider when making the order include:
The Youth Courts are empowered with the following options to deal with a youth offender upon a finding of guilt under Section 44 of the CYPA:
What Will Happen When A Youth Breaches A Court Order?
Court-Ordered Probation Review
Over and above the 6-monthly reviews, the Youth Courts may decide to place selected probation cases for review very shortly after making the probation order. The period could be 1 to 3 months after the probation order. This is to ensure that such cases are very closely monitored and remedial actions will be taken, should the probationer manifest any intention not to cherish the opportunity to be rehabilitated.
BPC Cases on Statutory Supervision
Unlike probation cases, Beyond Parental Control (BPC) statutory supervision orders are not subject to legislative review by the Youth Courts. However, the Youth Courts do review BPC cases from time to time if there is a need for close monitoring of the youth. If and when the pre-delinquent child or young person fails to comply with an order of statutory supervision, the Social Worker from the Singapore Children's Society may institute a complaint in Court. The youth and his parents are given an opportunity to explain and respond to these complaints. The Court may – place the child in a Place of Safety pending a progress report.
The progress report will be considered by the Youth Courts, which may make one of the following orders.
Residents' progress in the Place of Detention, Youth Rehabilitation Centre and Place of Safety regime are assessed at the meetings of the Review Board, a body constituted by the Minister of Social and Family Development to review such residents. Such meetings are held once a month. The Youth Court Judge is an ex officio member of this Review Board. The Director of Social Welfare, on the advice of the Review Board, may release the residents on licence after they have completed 12 months in the Youth Rehabilitation Centre or Place of Safety regime.
Breaching residents in Place of Detention, Youth Rehabilitation Centre and Place of Safety
Residents in the Place of Detention, Youth Rehabilitation Centre and Place of Safety may be breached for unruly behaviour. The test is whether the resident is so unruly a character that he / she cannot be so detained in the Place of Detention, Youth Rehabilitation Centre and Place of Safety. This could include incidents of bullying other residents, fighting, absconding etc. The manager of a Place of Detention, Youth Rehabilitation Centre and Place of Safety can initiate breach proceedings against a resident to the Youth Courts.
The resident is offered an opportunity to explain himself or engage a counsel to do so to the Youth Courts. The Youth Courts, if satisfied that there is justification for the breach action, will call for a progress report on the resident and fix the case for consideration before the Youth Courts.
If the Youth Courts are satisfied that the young person is so unruly as to be unfit to reside at the present institution, it is empowered to mete out the following orders in accordance to Section 44(7) of the Children and Young Persons Act (CYPA):
However it is also open to the Youth Courts if the case is appropriate to give the young person a stern warning with respect to his / her behaviour and direct him / her to continue his / her present detention.
Family Conferences in the Youth Courts can be convened for the following categories of cases:
Family conferences are convened to serve as a platform for the youth’s family, the community and the various external agencies (i.e. the youth’s school authorities, counsellor, probation officer, caseworker or social worker from the Homes (in some cases), psychologist, victim, the police etc.) to come together to collaborate in a manner which allows the multiple problems facing the youth and his family to be dealt with holistically for the benefit of the youth’s rehabilitation. Family conferences are also aimed at facilitating mandatory counselling for parents/guardians pertaining to future restoration and re-integration of the youth. Where strained relationships between the youth and parents/family members may impact rehabilitation, reconciliation can be facilitated during the family conference. Issues of family dysfunction can also be confronted while steps can then be agreed upon by the youth and family to reduce their acrimony. This can be further enhanced through the signing of a ‘Social Undertaking/Contract’ that captures the agreements between youth and family / school/other significant persons to take on certain behaviours that are pro-social and to abide by certain rules and regulations agreed upon during the Family Conference.
The philosophy of Family Conferencing for BPC is similar to that for offenders. It was introduced to:
Project Heal (ie Healing, Enriching And Linking), started in mid 2003, involving MSF Probation Services and the Juvenile Court then. Project HEAL is specifically targeted for victim-offender mediation. Anyone victimized (e.g. school officials representing schools in vandalism cases or victims of snatch theft etc.) might be requested to attend the Family Conference (HEAL). In addition to exacting just compensation or apologies from the offender, the overall rehabilitation and restoration of the victim is of concern. Thus, the victim is never coerced or cajoled into meeting the offender face-to-face, but rather is allowed to meet in whatever circumstances the victim feels would be most satisfying for him or her. Through various programmes, the victim and his family are then led into further restoration if needed. This can be in the form of referrals to relevant agencies for follow-up counselling where necessary.
Progress Presentation Review
The Progress Presentation Review (PPR) is a mode of review of how the probationer/supervisee (“Youth”) has progressed under probation/supervision orders. It is conducted in a form of a presentation by the youth. The presentation highlights the youth’s progress over the 3-4 month of probation/supervision.
It is intended to be an honest self-assessment of the youth’s own progress, supported by testimonials of adults who have had the opportunity to observe the youth’s progress. Self-reflection is the key process to help the youth gain greater insight over his circumstances, past choices and future direction. The PPR should also reflect learning of new skills and life changes.
Reaching out to the Community
Youth Justice is not only a matter for the Youth Courts but also involves the collaborative contributions of other Ministries & community agencies. The Youth Courts, together with CAPS, also build interagency and community networks through conducting regular training and outreach programmes on youth court processes and serving as a liaison between the Youth Courts and the community.
The following programmes were established to engage and educate youths in the community and the public at large on issues related to youth crime and delinquency:
Outreach to MOE professionals
Regular learning journeys are being conducted with school leaders, counsellors and Honorary Volunteer Special Constabulary Senior Officers (VSC). Most of the children and youths seen in the Youth Courts are school-going with issues stemming from committing offences, family dysfunction, and negative peer influences. The outreach also gives the visitors an understanding on their role as invited participants at Youth Court Family Conferences dealing with the students, and what types of Court orders can be made beyond a police arrest. Other topics shared are the Family and Youth Justice System as well as Restorative Justice.
Reaching Out To The World
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