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    Juvenile justice in Sierra Leone: a qualitative study of criminal and customary law

    O'Dwyer, Pauline (2021) Juvenile justice in Sierra Leone: a qualitative study of criminal and customary law. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    This thesis explores and accounts for the gap between the architecture of the law and its actual practice in Sierra Leone's juvenile justice system, under its criminal and customary law systems. The research is a qualitative study of Sierra Leone's justice systems, legal training and juvenile justice practice. The fieldwork was conducted in Freetown and Lunsar from June 2012 to June 2017. The data was analysed using grounded theory. The thesis identifies that both customary and criminal legal systems limit access to justice for children. While there is an explicit juvenile justice system in Sierra Leone that forms part of the criminal law, its practice is arbitrary and often informal. In customary law, this research shows that most relevant professionals regard customary law concerning child offenders as only applying to adults. However, in rural areas, paramount chiefs and sub-section chiefs do in practice adjudicate on juvenile justice. The analysis of the data for this thesis shows that a child's culpability also hinges on what I refer to as 'social culpability'. This concept captures the importance of social networks and social capital in the practice of juvenile justice. These include a child offender's status, especially their socio-economic position; the locality where the offence was committed; the patron and client relationships they are embedded in; the strength of their family ties; and how others perceive the child's character. These are characteristics that are interwoven within the social culpability concept. A child offender who lacks such social networks and social capital is rendered socially culpable, and it is this, more than their actual legal offence, that shapes their encounter with the law. Therefore, however robust the legal framework of juvenile justice in Sierra Leone is, the practice is weak, and children have to leverage various other systems to secure justice or liberty.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 04 Oct 2021 14:35
    Last Modified: 01 Nov 2023 14:51


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