The Implementation of the Right to Be Heard in Juvenile Justice Proceedings in Europe
In: I. Iusmen & H. Stalford (Eds.), The EU as a Global Children’s Rights Actor: Law, Policy and Structural Dimensions (pp. 133-163). London: Barbara Budrich Publishers, 2016
35 Pages Posted: 24 Apr 2017
Date Written: January 01, 2016
The adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child [CRC] by the United Nations [UN] and its subsequent ratification by nearly all countries around the world marked a turning point in the way that the rights of children are perceived. Since then children have been increasingly recognised as rights holders and social actors who are attributed autonomy and agency (Article 12 CRC; Doek 2007; Fitzgerald et al. 2009; Freeman 1992, 2007; Hanson 2012; Sinclair 2004). Having specific rights means that one can exercise agency and, according to Freeman (2007), being recognised as an agent means that children can participate in decisions that affect their life.
However, claiming the right to participate is not yet possible for many children across various different settings (Fitzgerald et al. 2009). This is especially true for participation in juvenile justice procedures. Although children are criminally responsible from a certain age, the acknowledgement that children have certain rights in this context is not always a matter of course (Freeman 1992). Recently, in Europe several developments have taken place to increase child-friendly justice practices. The 2011 EU Agenda for the Rights of the Child identified making the justice system in Europe more child-friendly as a key priority of the European Commission (Commission, 2011:6). Moreover, the European Commission (2011: 8) states that the use of the Council of Europe Guidelines on child-friendly justice (2010) should be promoted and taken into account in future legal instruments (see further Stalford, this collection).
The participation of juvenile defendants in the youth court is the central theme of this chapter. The analysis is informed by a cross-national comparative study of the practical implication of Article 12 CRC in juvenile justice procedures across 11 European countries. This involved a detailed study of juvenile law and policy documents across different jurisdictions, as well as systematic observations of more than 3,000 youth court hearings. To set the scene, the children’s rights framework with regard to the right to be heard will be outlined. Special attention will be given to the implementation of this right in an EU context.
Keywords: Juvenile Justice; Children's Rights; Right to Be Heard; Child-Friendly Justice
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