The Police under the Child and Family Protection Unit (CFPU)
They handle child and family related matters and in most cases engage the parents in settling and coming to an agreement on how their children can be maintained. Furthermore, the police can as well help in enforcing the Children’s rights and cause arrest of those that violate the same. S.4(3) of the Children’s Act as amended and the offender is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding 120 currency points (equivalent to 2.4 million UGX) or imprisonment not exceeding 5 years.
- Any aggrieved party can report to the police a matter of a Children’s Rights abuse with an oral complaint to the police officer at the child and family protection desk.
- First information and statement of the complainant will be recorded down in the criminal record book (CRB) and a reference number will be generated and given to the complainant for record purposes.
- A police file will be opened up and the OC/CID will allocate the same to an investigating officer (IO) for further investigations.
- The officer will issue a warrant, summoning the person who has been reported.
- Upon appearing, the police officer may engage both parties into settling the matter and enter into an agreement and reconcile.
- After investigations the OC/CID may recommend mediation, send the file to CFPU for handling or forward the file to the state attorney (court) depending on the nature of the offence, age of the accused and evidence available.
- Where parties fail to agree, the police officer shall record all necessary statements and attach all available evidence and forward the file to the State Attorney for sanctioning.
- Where the case has merit, the state attorney will sanction the file and cause the same to be brought to court for hearing and determination.
- The court upon conviction may give a fine not exceeding 2.4 million UGX or imprisonment not exceeding 5 years.
NOTE: Since the punishment itself cannot assist in ensuring proper maintenance of the child, the aggrieved party is normally advised to file a civil case for proper orders as seen below under the Family and Children’s court.
When dealing with children, the Police should be mindful of the following principles
- Police should respect the personal rights and dignity of all children and have regard to their vulnerability, that is, take account of their age and maturity and any special needs of those who may be under a physical or mental disability or have communication difficulties.
- The child should be informed in a manner and in language that is appropriate to his or her age and level of understanding of the reason for which he or she has been taken into custody.
- The child should be provided with access to a lawyer and be given the opportunity to contact their parents, guardians or a person whom they trust.
- Parent(s) should be informed of the child’s presence at the police station, given details of the reason why the child has been taken into custody and be asked to come to the station.
- Should not be questioned in respect of criminal behavior, or asked to make or sign a statement concerning such involvement, except in the presence of a lawyer or one of the child’s parents or guardian.
- Ensure that no child in their custody is detained together with adults.
- Ensure that children in police custody are kept in conditions that are safe and appropriate to their needs.
- Child-friendly approaches should be adhered to throughout the investigation process.
How should the police handle cases and charge children with criminal offences?
- The Police are ordinarily the first point of contact for a child within the formal justice system.
- As far as possible all cases involving children in conflict with the law should be handled by the CFPU.
- Officers in CFPU are required to dress in plain clothes, use child friendly language and liaise with either the parents/guardians of the child, the probation and social welfare officer and LCs.
- After a complainant has filed a case, an arrest is not to be made until enough information is obtained to support the case. A record of the arrest should be made by the police.
- Where a child is arrested, the police shall under justifiable circumstances caution and release the child. The police are empowered to dispose of cases at their discretion without recourse to formal court hearings in accordance with criteria to be laid down by the Inspector General of Police.
- As soon as possible after arrest, the child’s parents or guardians and the secretary for children’s affairs of the local government council for the area in which the child resides shall be informed of the arrest by the police.
- The number of interviews should be as limited as possible and their length should be adapted to the child’s age and attention span.
- Release the child on police bond unless such release will expose the child to danger of mob justice or defeat the end of justice.
- If police bond is not granted, a child shall be detained in police custody for a maximum of twenty-four hours or until the child is taken before a court, whichever is sooner.
- Children should be detained separately from adults while in police custody.
- Serious cases should be referred to the prosecution department and lesser offences can be handled through other means like mediation.