This semester is truly a struggle for me. I am still getting to grips with understanding criminal law. During one Thursday’s class, we went through a class referring to the Children and Young Persons Act 1993 (2020 Rev Ed) (“CYPA”). My lecturer, who happens to be an accomplished criminal lawyer, referred the class to a case involving a 16 year old boy who cheated his friends of monies in excess of $300,000. He then asked me what I would do if I were the prosecutor. I could not answer the question well. Section 34 of the CYPA was brought to my attention. The section provided for the general consideration that every court in dealing with a child or young person should consider. This is with reference of children or young persons either being in need of care or protection or as an offender. The considerations were to remove the individual from undesirable surroundings, facilitate the protection and rehabilitation of the individual and to prevent the recurrence of ill-treatment or any contravention of any written law by that individual. My initial thought was “Even for a kid who cheated his friends of over $300,000? Surely there must be more weight placed on punishment in light of his offences?”
Coincidentally, three days later, my classmates and I went to Boys’ Town to play badminton and football with the boys. These were boys from less than ideal family backgrounds. Some would have offended in some way or another, some would have come from families where they had to be removed from. Before the event, we were told that we had to be sensitive in how we deal with the boys. I had the impression that they were going to be a rowdy bunch. However, the reality was that they were extremely polite. They greeted us extremely politely. They waited for their turns to play badminton with us. They allowed the ladies to go before them. They were extremely cooperative when being divided up into teams to play football, showed great sportsmanship and after the game, they thanked us for coming to play a game of football with them. If not for this being Boys’ Town, I would never have believed that these boys came from less than ideal backgrounds.
Life is never fair and for some, they were dealt with really short straws. These boys made me understand why we need people in the system to work with and for them. These are impressionable children and when they are given proper guidance, they are very good natured kids. A few were calling me “uncle” multiple times and my fellow classmates found it extremely amusing. At the end, a large group of them yelled out “thank you uncle!” A few of them asked me whether I would come and support them when they played their football matches. I made them a promise that I would and I intend to fulfil that promise.
This was one of the most fulfilling afternoons in my “uncle” life. It was a great privilege for me to interact with, in my unbiased and honest opinion, a group of young gentlemen.
The law is not just about retributive justice. At first glance, the words “An Act to provide for the welfare, care, protection and rehabilitation of children and young persons who are in need of such care, protection or rehabilitation, to regulate homes for children and young persons and to consolidate the law relating to children and young persons.” did not make much sense to me. That is extracted from the CYPA. My experience with Boys’ Town made me understand that the law is also about “care, protection or rehabilitation” and that is as important if not more important that the retributive aspect of criminal justice.
To any from SUSS School of Law who would like to join us for future Boys’ Town events, do contact Jonathan, Aaron and Lin Lee… Many thanks to them for putting together this event. It was a very special afternoon for all who participated.
Here are some of the picture of us at Boys’ Town. We were careful not to capture any of the boys in our photos as much as some of them wanted to take a photo with us.
“lus est ars boni et aequi” – The law is the art of goodness and equity
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