Abu Dhabi scheme to teach children legal responsibilities

Abu Dhabi Judicial Department hopes that by teaching children the law now, they will turn into responsible adults, less likely to commit offenses.

A student at Emirates National School for Boys in Mohammed Bin Zayed City holds onto balloons before they are released during the launch of the Children's Legal Knowledge Year activity at the school. Delores Johnson / The National
Powered by automated translation

ABU DHABI // Juvenile offences make up about 40 per cent of all cases examined by prosecutors, and on Wednesday, a year-long plan to teach Abu Dhabi’s youngsters about their legal responsibilities began.

Supporters of the scheme say that by teaching youth about the law at an early age, youngsters will be more likely to turn into responsible adults.

The scheme was launched by Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD), which has declared 2015 as “child’s legal knowledge year”.

Children were often unaware that some of their actions could lead to them being prosecuted under the law, so creating a legal culture for them was necessary, said the head of family prosecution, Mohammed Al Dhanhani.

For that to happen, everyone needed to cooperate in spreading the legal message to them, especially parents, he said.

“Parents are half responsible for offences committed by their children, because they did not create preventive measures,” he said.

“We do not prosecute the parents legally, but seeing their children [facing legal charges] is more harsh on them.

“Children might not understand the meaning of legal knowledge, so we are trying to explain through short videos that some actions are wrong and have damaging results. Like one who fights in school, uses the mobile phone to insult others, prank them or cause disturbance.”

Schools are keen on the project, with more than 25 across the emirate asking for the ADJD team to visit and lecture.

The department is also communicating with international organisations, including Unicef and Unesco.

While the majority of cases before ADJD involved children being the victims of attacks by family members, domestic workers or significant figures in their lives, like bus drivers or grocery salesmen, a few cases were the other way round, it said.

“One or two cases [of children attacking domestic workers] were presented in front of me, so we cannot call it a trend,” said Mr Al Dhanhani.

About 300 children gathered at Emirates National School yesterday to release a flight of balloons carrying the campaign’s slogan, Protecting them with knowledge.

To get the message flying faster, the public have been invited to spot any of the themed balloons in the air, take a photo of it and post it to any of ADJD’s social media accounts.

The best contribution will win a prize.

Attorney general Ali Al Buloushi said he hoped the creative approach would deliver the message more effectively to children and help to achieve the department’s goals.

The event started with short educational videos about consuming illegal substances, school fights and misuse of social media. Between each clip a child announced a short message as he walked across the stage.

The messages included, “We are your mirror, what you teach us is what we will become”, and “the whole world is the size of a small device in our hands, we need to learn how to live in this world”.

Officials said more events were planned for later in the year.