On track to further success

PETALING JAYA: A pilot project on an alternative approach to handling children who have committed crimes by emphasising protection and rehabilitation has proven enough of a success that the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry wants to expand it in phases.

Its minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri said the Diversion pilot project, launched in 2019, can be referred to as a success story.

“This project fits with Article 40(3)(b) or ‘diversion’ under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which Malaysia has ratified. I personally think we should continue.

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“I met these children who came into conflict with the law for minor offences – you can see they are still very young.

“They still lack maturity and the right skills, but with the right direction, they can become role models. Diversion is very much needed, so these children can be given counselling and explore their interests,” she told The Star.

Article 40 involves children who may have committed crimes being treated in a manner consistent with the promotion of the child’s sense of dignity and worth, as well as to promote the child’s reintegration and assuming a constructive role in society.

Although the DiversioNancy: ‘Diversion is very much needed, so these children can be given counselling and explore their interests.’Nancy: ‘Diversion is very much needed, so these children can be given counselling and explore their interests.’n project began in 2019, it was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It resumed on Sept 1, 2020 up to May 31, 2022, Nancy said.

Describing the project as effective, she said children in the 18 cases the Diversion project handled have successfully changed their lives, with some successfully continuing their studies, finding employment and becoming independent.

“The cases were sent by welfare offices in various districts involving some children who were caught by the police, or were referred cases.

“We worked together with the courts, which had recommended these children for the programme,” she added.

Nancy said there was a need to ensure the entire “Diversion” ecosystem is improved, as everything was the “first”, including those involved in the project.

This was because despite being a good programme, it was still a pilot project, she added.

When asked about children in juvenile detention, she said many of those came from broken homes, but the experience inside the system provided a learning experience.

“Once inside the programme, it is when they start to think for themselves and not repeat their mistakes.

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“This is where counselling plays an important role, especially the one-to-one sessions that help them realise the crimes they have committed.

“We have to explain that if they were not underage, they would have gone to jail. The reminder is not to cast fear, but more about making them understand the law and being given the opportunity to improve their lives and make better choices for their future,” she said.

As the relevant minister, Nancy said she wanted to see the programme upgraded so that the children involved have more options to learn and have more skilled people to care for them.

The Diversion project was an effort by the ministry, through the Welfare Department, with technical support from Unicef Malaysia, and the cooperation of the Attorney General’s Chambers and police.

ALSO READ: Programme to protect kids to be implemented in 300 schools

Former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who first announced the project in 2019, said the concept of Diversion is an alternative approach to handling children under the age of 18 who have committed crimes by emphasising protection and rehabilitation.

The Diversion pilot project was implemented in three locations, namely the Sepang, Seremban and Port Dickson districts, for a period of two years beginning Dec 16, 2019 (at the time of launch).

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