Did you know ?
Throughout Europe, many children are confronted to Justice, as suspects or accused in criminal proceedings. But children are not adults and have their own particular needs and rights, all the more when it comes to criminal proceedings. In that perspective, adopting a child-friendly justice system is a prerequisite.
But in many countries, concerns have been raised regarding the access to and the assistance of a lawyer for children in criminal proceedings (from the lack of information received by those children to the lack of trained (youth) lawyers, absence of latitude in the choice of their lawyer, lack of clarity in the procedures, etc).
A good defence plays a major role in the measures taken by the judge and the child’s ability to reintegrate and rehabilitate after the criminal justice proceedings. Unfortunately, measures taken at the national level, especially those aiming at promoting a child-friendly justice, are insufficient (see this recent analysis made by DCI-Belgium on the importance of the right of access to a lawyer for children).
This needs to change.
WHAT ARE THE CURRENT ISSUES ?
– Financing the system
– The availability of lawyers working on juvenile cases
– Access to information
– Access to legal aid
– Language is often not adapted to children and even more when the child does not speak the national language
– The lack of intervention by a lawyer at all stages of the process, from initial contact with the justice system (often involving the police), to the end of the process in order to explain the decision and support the child in applying the measures
– The small number of appeals of decisions by juvenile judges compared to the number of appeals in adult cases
– In some jurisdictions, the possibility for children to give up the right to a lawyer without understandings the consequences of this decision.
We need to enhance children’s rights in criminal proceedings by promoting the importance of a proper and thorough training for youth lawyers, and the implementation of child-friendly principles enshrined in european texts of law.
Funded by the European Commission and coordinated by DCI-Belgium, the project My Lawyer, My Rights aims to :
1. Support Member States and advocate for the correct implementation of Directives on procedural rights, specifically when the person accused or suspected is a child, through practical tools and recommendations;
2. Define the conditions for an effective right to defence;
3. Assist Member States in establishing national structures specialized in child legal and social aid;
4. Develop the specificities of the role and mission of a lawyer for children, his training and the structures needed to fully guarantee children’s rights, including formal legal aid systems and socio-legal defence centers;
5. Support youth lawyers to become key actors in a proper implementation of the right to access a lawyer for children in criminal proceedings by providing them with information and practical tools;
6. Provide information on existing best practices & (inter)national legislation in the field of juvenile justice in other member States;
7. Focus on children’s opinion by asking them what THEY think of their right to be properly assisted during proceedings.
We advocate for the proper implementation and effective monitoring of the Directive 2013/48/EU on the right of access to a lawyer in criminal proceedings, Directive 2016/800/EU on procedural safeguards for children who are suspects or accused persons in criminal proceedings, Directive 2010/64/EU on the right to interpretation and translation, and Directive 2012/13/EU on the right to information.
These Directives are based on the fact that a person suspected or accused of having committed a criminal offence is vulnerable and in need of assistance. This sets out the obligation to pay special attention to vulnerable persons, especially children.
Each member States needs to work on the correct implementation of those Directives on procedural rights specifically in cases where the person suspected or accused is a child.
The project further advocates and provides practical tools to member States to set up national structures specialised in child legal and social aid, and practical tools to further develop and entrench the specific role of children’s lawyers, their training and structure to guarantee children’s rights, including systems and socio-legal defence centres (read more here).
This post is also available in: French