Amman – Jalal Abu Saleh
Destiny could lead people, young and old, to fall into the trap of wrongdoing. However, there is more behind it, many stories we can relate to and are part of our lives. This was the case with two minors who stole a donation box from a mosque. They were referred to court and accused of grand theft (The Jordanian Penal Code penalizes grand theft with up to three years in prison, places of worship fall under the grand theft articles).
A study [i]conducted last year by the Juvenile Police Department and Noor Al Hussein Foundation shows that “Around 80% of children in conflict with the law live in households below the poverty line.” According to the study, children between the ages of 15 and 17 are the most inclined to get in conflict with the law with a percentage of 80% and most incidents occur in the central part of the kingdom with a percentage of 59%, followed by the North with 31%, and then the South with 10%.
The Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD)’s legal department represented the two children and found out that one of them has a chronic illness that requires costly weekly treatment. The child’s family cannot afford treatment, therefore, he stole the donation box with the help of his friend.
The Imam caught the children and called the authorities, disregarding the story behind the act and the psychological, social, and behavioral motives that led the children to become delinquent as “the law sees them” and some people too! Theft is ethically unacceptable and unjustifiable and one who commits it must be punished. However, some cases require empathy and forgiveness as in most of the stories behind them, it is out of one’s hand. ARDD’s lawyer clarified the situation to the Imam and explained that the motive was only to cover the treatment costs, and in his turn, the Imam dropped the charges.
However, in such cases, even when the victim drops charges (which is considered extenuating circumstances), the public charge remains. However, eventually, the court found the two children guilty of grand theft and sentenced them to one year in a Juvenile Education and Rehabilitation Facility. As the children pled guilty and appealed the court’s mercy, the court scolded them and dismissed the charges, ensuring they do not commit such acts again, in line with the Juvenile Law that recommends such measures instead of detention.
The most important part of this case lies in understanding the underlying cause of theft, which means that we are facing a major problem impacting our children and families, which is the absence of social protection, and the failure to provide adequate health, educational, and financial services to help them live. As such, what we need are competent legal institutions to deal with the juvenile, taking into account the best interest of the child, in compliance with the standards of corrective justice from social, psychological and corrective perspectives. There is also a dire need for national strategies to raise the awareness of families on dealing with children who are in danger to fall prey to harsh social and humanitarian conditions that could lead them to commit crimes without considering consequences.
These stories are part of the “Enhancement of the protective environment of Syrian and Jordanian Children” project ” Implemented in partnership with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the project aims to contribute to creating a better protective environment for Syrian and Jordanian children at risk, including children with disabilities living in the most vulnerable communities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, through the provision of legal services and cash support.