Home NewsNational Prosecution Speaks Out On Case Of 15-Year-Old Following Ruling

Prosecution Speaks Out On Case Of 15-Year-Old Following Ruling

by Edmund Kagire
5:12 pm

Prosecution Spokesperson Faustin Nkusi. /File Photo.

The National Public Prosecution Authority (NPPA) has shed more light on the case of a 15-year old juvenile whose drug trafficking trial drew a public debate over his age, reiterating that arraigning the teenager in court was lawful in all aspects.

The case of the teenage boy first came to light on January 31 when he appeared in court, in handcuffs, to face charges of drug trafficking after he was found in a house with 51 pellets of marijuana, which he was involved in selling with his parents, according to Prosecution.

The boy, whose identity has been withheld, was arrested in November 2022, in Kimisagara Sector, Nyarugenge district, during an operation by security organs, but his father who is still on the run managed to evade arrest. Reports say the child’s mother is in jail for the same offences.

During the substantive trial last month, Prosecution requested for a 10-year jail sentence for the teen who had pleaded guilty to the charges through a plea bargain negotiated by his lawyer, prompting a public outcry after photos of the juvenile being handcuffed circulated on social media.

On Friday, February 3, Nyarugenge Intermediate Court rendered a verdict in the case, handing the accused a 2-year suspended sentence and a fine of Rwf1m after he pleaded guilty to the crime of drug trafficking.

Among other issues, social media users pointed out the age of the accused, which at the time was reported to be 13 but later his birth certificate provided by Kimisagara sector showed that he was born on January 1, 2008, which means that he is 15 and not 13 or 14, as earlier reported by the media

Following the ruling, Faustin Nkusi, NPPA Spokesperson, said that what was done in the case of the teenager was well within the confines of the law and that his case was not unusual as there are other juvenile offenders who end up in courts for different crimes, as is the case in most countries across the globe.

Nkusi said the teenager’s case was approached with ’emotions’ but there is nothing unique in his case, especially considering that throughout the process, he admitted his direct involvement in the trade and distribution of narcotics, together with his parents.

The Prosecution Spokesperson pointed out that in such a case where someone is caught red-handed, as was the case with the teenager, there is no option but to follow what the law says.

He added however that laws are not inconsiderate because mitigating factors were applied by Prosecution and later the Judge in rendering the verdict.

“This juvenile offender was arrested because he was caught red-handed in possession of drugs. He was interviewed by Rwanda Investigation Bureau and he admitted that he was selling the drugs, assisting his parents,”

“The drugs were brought in by the parents and he was also participating in the selling, working with the father. The father could even deliver the drugs home and leave. The son would remain behind to sell the drugs to different clients,” Nkusi said, adding that it was found that he even knew the price of each pellet.

Nkusi said that during the interview with RIB and Prosecution respectively, the teenager said that they sold each pellet of cannabis at Rwf500 and that he would sell about 20 of them a day.

He pointed out that when he was asked if he knew that what he was doing was illegal, he admitted that he was aware that it was a serious crime because there was a time he watched a TV show where they were talking about illegal dealings in narcotics.

“He was aware that what he was doing was a crime,” Nkusi said, adding that under the Rwandan law, juveniles aged between 14 and 18 accused of committing offences can be held criminally liable.

Nkusi said that with an admission and evidence, investigators forwarded the file to prosecution and from questioning, prosecution forward the case to court. He added however that in Rwanda, as it is in other parts of the world, cases involving juveniles are handled with extra care, putting into consideration the age, rights and welfare of the child in question.

“We consider dealing in narcotics a serious crime,” he said, adding that there are international standards in dealing with juvenile offenders and they were all put into consideration and respected.

“I’ve seen people say that we didn’t consider the welfare and rights of the child but I think that is an emotional conclusion. Whatever the case, it doesn’t exclude the fact that the juvenile committed a crime. Definitely, we have to comply with what the law requires us to do, well aware that it is a child we are dealing with,” Nkusi said.

Why Prosecution requested for a 10-year sentence

Nkusi said that contrary to what many have said, the 10-year sentence requested by Prosecution was considerate and well within the law because under the law, people found guilty of peddling drugs get a life sentence upon conviction.

“To be clear on this, the maximum sentence one can get for committing a crime such as drug trafficking is a life sentence,”

“If you look at article 263 of the 2018 law determining offences and penalties in general, any person who, unlawfully produces, transforms, transports, stores, gives to another or who sells in the country narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances commits an offence and gets a life sentence and a fine of Rwf20m upon conviction,” Nkusi said.

“But for someone who is aged between 14 and 18, the fact that they are juvenile offenders must be put into consideration, which is why we didn’t see the judge hand him a life sentence. He had to consider mitigating factors prescribed by the law, including the minority age of the offender,” Nkusi said.

He pointed out that if the offender of that age was supposed to get a life sentence, it is reduced to a minimum of 10 years and not exceeding 15 years for Prosecutors.

“We did exactly what the law says. The Judge too can put into consideration other mitigating factors to give a lesser sentence as we saw in the ruling today, where the offender was handed a two year sentence but suspended for four years,” Nkusi said, adding that the provisions of the law must be implemented as written.

Nkusi said that judges have the flexibility to hand down a much lighter sentence if they look at all mitigating factors but that is the work of the court.

Among other things, he said the court looks at how the juvenile offender behaves and whether he can be rehabilitated but at the same time it has to ensure that the law is implemented – and this cannot be because of pressure or social media noise.

Can Prosecution appeal?

Nkusi said that Prosecution has no plans of appealing the Friday ruling, adding that together with other institutions, they will follow up on the convicted juvenile to ensure that he gets the support and rehabilitation he needs, but most importantly, ensure that he does not go back to the same vice.

“I think we are satisfied with the court ruling because of the mitigating factors I mentioned above. Our intention is to see that this child goes back into society and is rehabilitated,” Nkusi said.

He added that in the event he commits the crime again (recidivism), he can be brought back to court and this time the law would be applied fully and chances of getting another suspended sentence would be very minimal -which is why he will be supported through rehabilitation.

Nkusi said that this is not the first case involving a juvenile and not the most pressing, pointing out that every country has juvenile offenders and so does Rwanda.

He said that apart from the teenager whose case drew social media attention, there are other juvenile offenders undergoing trial for different offences and there is nothing surprising because this happens everywhere.

“What is more important is how we deal with these cases involving juveniles. We make sure their welfare and rights are respected. We have some serving their sentences while others are serving suspended sentences just like this one,”

“There is nothing unusual or unique with this particular case,” Nkusi said.

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