– Dinah never knew who her father was. He had been incarcerated for drug consumption when she was very young and her mother divorced him while he was still in prison. Dinah started to play truant from school when she was barely 11 years old, staying overnight at the beach and loitering around shopping centres. By the time she was caught for consuming heroin at the age of 15, Dinah had drifted in and out of three sexual relationships and had stayed away from home for about two years.
Dinah’s story is one of eight case studies of juvenile offenders in a new book on the workings of Singapore’s juvenile justice system. Written by Ms Lim Hui Min, a former District Judge in the Family & Juvenile Court and currently Director of the Legal Services Unit at the Ministry of Social and Family Development, Juvenile Justice, Where Rehabilitation Takes Centre Stage is published by Academy Publishing, a division of the Singapore of Law.
Ms Lim’s encounter with young offenders started more than 10 years ago when she was posted as a young Magistrate to the Family and Juvenile Court. She recalled that the experience was humbling and sobering. During that time she kept a journal of the cases that she would hear in court - children who were in need of care and protection as well as those who were beyond parental control.
Ms Lim saw a common thread in the life of young offenders like Dinah. Many of them started to get into trouble because they were not properly supervised at home. Most had no constructive activities to occupy their time. Once the juvenile offender got into a pattern of poor achievement and idleness, they go on a downward spiral. But when they were taken into the juvenile system, these offenders had the chance to study, take up hobbies and were assigned counseling and guidance. Their relationships with their families improved and they start making plans for their future.
“I agree with the rehabilitation philosophy of the Juvenile Court – that the mission was not to scold and punish juvenile offenders, but to spur, steer and support positive change in them,” said Ms Lim. She is a firm believer that every child that came before the Juvenile Court still has a chance to make good.
Juvenile Justice provides valuable insights into the roles played by the various stakeholders and the community in the treatment of the juvenile offender. Besides case studies, the book provides an analysis of juvenile arrest cases in the past decade and statistics on recidivism rates of juvenile offenders.
In his foreword to the book, Judge of Appeal V K Rajah said that the publication of this book comes at a significant time as the entire family justice framework is likely to undergo a major overhaul in the near future. Compared to other areas of law, little has been written on the subject of juvenile justice and the book will benefit not only lawyers and law students but anyone who is involved in helping troubled young persons on their road to recovery.
Juvenile Justice, Where Rehabilitation Takes Centre Stage, priced at S$64.20 (inclusive of GST) is available at major bookstores in Singapore. Orders can also be placed online via the Singapore Academy of Law website www.sal.org.sg. For more information, call 6332 4388.
Lim Hui Min started her legal career in private practice, doing mainly commercial litigation. She subsequently joined the Subordinate Courts as a Magistrate and was later appointed as a District Judge.
She spent the bulk of her time with the Family and Juvenile Court, where she presided over both family and juvenile court cases. After this, she was seconded to the then Ministry of Community Development Youth and Sports where she worked as a policy officer, helping to design programmes to help low-income families.
Thereafter, she joined the Legal Aid Bureau, where she gave legal help to the less privileged. She is currently Director of the Legal Services Unit at the Ministry of Social and Family Development. She has authored and co-authored numerous publications in the areas of civil procedure, family and juvenile law.
Academy Publishing is a division of the Singapore Academy of Law. It was officially launched on 18 May 2007 by the President of the Academy, the Honourable the Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong. This division was set up to publish books and other texts on Singapore law, and its objectives are threefold:
- To provide affordable legal materials to the legal profession (including corporate counsel), law academics, law students, and the Judiciary;
- To provide an alternative avenue to the academics in our law schools to publish their writings and thereby to encourage them to produce more works; and
- To disseminate the laws of Singapore to a wider public in the region and internationally.
The titles to be published are selected by a Commissioning Panel.
Academy Publishing is not profit-driven and its immediate priority is to publish books on areas of law that fulfil practice and student needs, although other kinds of legal texts will also be included.