NICE optimistic on access to justice for all

A visit by the National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE), Judiciary and Social Welfare to Nchalo and Chikwawa Police stations has revealed gaps in the justice delivery system and rampant cases of young offenders.

Some of the gaps include; overstaying on remand of some offenders, with minor and civil cases against the 48 hour rule, keeping on remand and denying a remandee access to TB treatment and keeping in custody children suspected to have committed offences with old people.

During the visit at Nchalo, it came out that most offenders were charged with stealing sugarcanes in Illovo Estate, followed by young offenders who run away from home and found themselves in wrong places like bars and engaged in sexual relationships.

Speaking on Tuesday during the visit, District NICE Civic Education Officer for Chikwawa and Nsanje, Kondwani Malunga said it is unfortunate that in some cases the rule of law is not being adhered to by law enforcement agencies.

The visit to the police cells was to appreciate the conditions people on remand are in as they await trial and where there is need for bail one gets it.

Court Users Committee visits Nchalo and Chikwawa police stations. Pic Marian Macheka (Mana)

“NICE is implementing Chilungamo (Justice and Accountability) project with funding from the European Union in line with its strategic plan pillar three on providing platform for access to justice and redress mechanisms for marginalised groups which is also in line with Malawi 2063 enabler two on effective governance systems and institutions,” Malunga said.

“It is pleasing to note that at the end of the visit, seven people were recommended for bail by Chikwawa First Grade Magistrate, Gladstone Chirundu. Four at Nchalo and three at Chikwawa based on the nature of their offence, age, health status and period they were on remand among other considerations,” he added.

Malunga, therefore, recommended adequate and continuous awareness on rights and responsibilities of children and parents as well as laws that safeguard rights of children which should involve all relevant stakeholders.

“We are working with all the parties concerned to ensure young offenders are assisted accordingly,” he said.

On his part, Chirundu noted the absence of a child protection worker at Nchalo as a contributing factor to the increase of child offenders as they lack counselling.

Chirundu, however, hailed the intervention by NICE as it has revealed some loopholes which will be addressed following the visit.

“At Chikwawa Boma and Nchalo three and four were recommended for bail, respectively depending on a number of factors,” he said.

Chirundu appealed to the police to liaise with child protection workers on how best to handle child offenders and that they should not be spending nights in cell as that is a breach of their rights.

In his contribution, police detective Inspector, Stanley Kulemeka lamented the high cases of sugarcane theft, noting that most of the offenders depend on stealing to earn a living and as a result they become habitual criminals.

Kulemeka concurred with Chirundu to the effect that the absence of child protection workers makes it difficult for both parents and children to receive proper counselling on their roles and responsibilities for better child upbringing.

Chikwawa District Assistant Social Welfare Officer, Charles Nlashi acknowledged the absence of a child protection worker in Nchalo, pledging to address the gap in the near future.