The Voice of the Child in Juvenile Justice Procedures
T. Liefaard & J. Sloth-Nielsen (Eds.), The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: Taking Stock after 25 Years and Looking Ahead (pp. 294-315). Leiden: Brill/Nijhoff (2017)
21 Pages Posted: 17 Apr 2017 Last revised: 23 Apr 2017
Date Written: January 01, 2017
The adoption of the CRC and its subsequent ratification by a significant number of countries can be recognised as a turning point in looking at the rights of children. Children are increasingly seen as rights holders and social actors who are attributed autonomy and agency. Specifically, article 12 CRC – the right to be heard – gives children the opportunity to exercise their rights.
The present study deals with the implementation of the right to be heard in practice, namely in juvenile justice procedures. The implication of article 12 is such that juvenile defendants should be encouraged to give their personal views on the criminal case and that professionals in court should consider these views seriously. Moreover, this right also presupposes that the juvenile defendant understands what is happening during the judicial proceedings, he should be provided with adequate information and that language is used that he understands.
Between 2000 and 2012, the cases of in total 3,019 juvenile defendants were observed in youth courts and other competent administrative bodies in the juvenile justice systems in 11 European countries. From the empirical findings of this study it can be concluded that the implementation of article 12 takes best place in the Scottish children’s hearings system and in the juvenile justice system in Switzerland. In the youth courts in England and Wales, Ireland, Scotland and Spain hearing juveniles and contributing to their understanding occurs to a limited extent. The Dutch youth court practice can be situated somewhere in between these two extremes: it functions on a high level, although improvements are possible.
Overall, it can be concluded from this study that structural differences between systems, such as the legal tradition (i.e. the inquisitorial and the adversarial tradition) and the setting in which hearings take place, have an important influence on the participation of juvenile defendants.
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