Justice Dennis Adjei, Justice of the Appeals Court, has asked police officers to help protect the rights of children, especially those that are brought to them as having had a brush with the law.
He said the police should guard them from abuse and serve as their mouthpiece.
Justice Adjei was addressing a training organised by the Legal Resource Centre (LRC) in Accra and attended by about 60 police investigators and prosecutors from the Eastern, Volta and Greater Accra regions.
It was dubbed: “Justice for Children: Bridging the Gap between legislation and Practice,” and sponsored by the European Union.
The training sought to sensitise the security personnel on their role in protecting the rights and interests of children.
Justice Adjei, also the Dean of the GIMPA Law School, told the police that there were children who would run to them for help, whom they should protect rather than turning them away with one reason or another.
He said they should not detain children with adult suspects or accused persons to prevent them from being adulterated and hardened.
He said during investigations the police should ensure that the legal process was fair to the children in order not to punish them wrongly.
He urged the police to explain the charge to children in the language they understood and secure legal assistance for them, adding that though all these were enshrined in the Constitution, it was different in practice and called on the officers to respect it.
Police personnel, Justice Adjei said, should make good use of the regional presidents of the Ghana Bar Association by getting their mobile contacts for free legal services to the children.
That was where the importance of legal aid came into play as children, naturally, could not afford a lawyer and they could be punished unnecessarily, particularly regarding truancy, he said.
Children, who in this context are below 16, should be sent to a juvenile court for sentence and detained at a juvenile correctional centre, he said.
Ms Daphne Lariba Nabila, the Executive Director for LRC, said the Centre was a non-governmental organisation committed to the realisation of human dignity by building human rights capacities.
“The Centre supports people whose rights have been violated and prevented others from being violated, educates people on laws protecting children, identifies loopholes in the law and forwards to the Attorney General for revision,” she said.
Assistant Superintendent of Police Armah Hanson, a participant, called on government to provide the necessary facilities that would not make juveniles suffer unduly, saying that personnel were doing their best with the limited resources.
Topics treated included the Ghanaian Legal System; Providing Legal Aid Services, Responsibilities of Agencies, and Implementations and Practical Considerations.