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Tuesday 21st of November 2017

What we do

January 2017 - December 2019 - European Union

Juvenile justice systems in Europe have undergone considerable changes during the past 20 years, particularly in the former socialist countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) region. These legal and structural changes concerned the implementation of alternative measures, diversion, victim-offender mediation and other restorative techniques in the majority of the countries in the CEE region.

Despite these positive movements, juvenile justice systems still have been characterized by a focus on punishment rather than rehabilitation, prosecution rather than diversion, and on detention rather than community alternatives. These practices often respond to public demands on reacting towards juvenile delinquency by more severe sanctioning. Even though the current legislation in the target CEE countries (Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary) recognises restorative approaches such as mediation, as well as sentences of community service, in most cases, these are rarely imposed. Belgium is also a target country, where restorative approaches are recognised and best practice can be identified (and will be collected throughout the project) however the main actors are still reluctant to use the existing system of diversion/restorative justice and use instead deprivation of liberty as main measure.

In this context of improvement, amongst fluctuations and challenges, in diverting children in conflict with the law from imprisonment, the following determined challenge remains in the target CEE countries: diversion and alternatives to imprisonment are generally less accessible for children from rural areas and the poorest backgrounds. In this way, juvenile justice reforms are confined to the Capital City; data on juvenile sentencing practices in general, and diversion in particular, is not available, incomplete, and in most cases, inaccessible; there is little or no evidence of progress in continued use of services; limited availability of after-care services that support reintegration into society for children who have been in conflict with the law and  juvenile justice professionals often do not use practices in the area of diversion due to lack of services and limited knowledge of child-friendly judicial practices.

It appears that while there are available services and opportunities for diversion, the current measures are not appropriate, effective, or even recorded as such, so while most legislation now recognises diversion, the recognition is characterised by narrow limits. It comes out that introducing diversion not only requires new legal and procedural frameworks, but also a shift in the roles and aims of the juvenile justice systems.

In this regard, the project ‘AWAY - Alternative Ways to Address Youth’ (JUST/2015/RCHI/AG/PROF) seeks to promote the use of diversion in order to have, in practice, a child friendly approach to the juvenile justice system. To address the challenges in this area, this project will conduct research and develop an empirical evidence base on diversion that will inform the juvenile justice in the region; it will provide professional support to multidisciplinary professionals to become more aware and better equipped in using diversion mechanisms and finally; it will endeavour to enhance public awareness on the benefits of diversion for children. 

MAIN ACTIVITIES

• Research in Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary and Romania to identify the challenges or obstacles for the use of diversion and map existing alternative services for children in rural areas.

• Identify and map good practices and experiences in Belgium.

• Work with children at risk or in conflict with the law in Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary and Romania as members of child advisory boards to ensure that their experiences, views, opinions are reflected and considered throughout all project activities.

• Develop and implement an interactive online learning course for multidisciplinary professionals including two face-to-face sessions with professionals in three locations of each country, one-on-one and group mentoring sessions, and online forum discussions.

• Create and launch a public campaign in each country influencing public perceptions about juvenile offenders and promoting alternative sentencing as beneficial for the development of children and their better integration in society as productive members. Specific advocacy events targeting EU Member States and the Council of Europe.

• Publish stories and articles, increasing publicity on the subject.

September 2017 - June 2019 - European Union Justice, Juvenile, Security, Systems

The earliest stages of criminal procedures frequently determine the overall fairness of proceedings. During the pre-trial interrogation of vulnerable suspects or accused persons key evidence is often obtained and the admissibility of this evidence can determine the ultimate outcome of the case.

There is a growing recognition of the need for vulnerable suspects to be accorded special safeguards at the interrogation stage to ensure their fair treatment and effective participation, as expressed by the Commission Recommendation C(2013) 8178/2 (S3§13).

Although there is a slow move in the direction of increased audiovisual recording of the interrogation of vulnerable suspects or accused persons, the picture across Europe is patchy. A number of states resist the introduction of recording for a range of reasons, including cost, technical challenges and ensuring privacy.

The project ‘ProCam - Procedural Rights Observed by the Camera: Audiovisual Recordings of Interrogations in the EU’, supported by the Justice Programme of the European Union, aims to research the connection between the audiovisual recording of any questioning of vulnerable persons and the enforcement of their rights, as advised in the Commission Recommendation.

The project will research the role of audio-visual recording in securing the rights granted in Directive 2013/48, alongside facilitating EU-wide identification of good practices of recording interrogation of vulnerable persons, and the understanding of related concerns.

The project remit covers analysing international standards, researching practices in the 28 EU Member States, exchanging experiences between national stakeholders, comparing Member State laws and practices, proposing reform to reinforce good practices, and disseminating project findings at the European Parliament.

January 2017 - January 2019 - European Union Justice, Juvenile, Restorative, Victims

The Directive establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime (hereafter, the ‘Victims Directive’), adopted on 25th October 2012, strengthens the rights of victims and their families to information, support and protection, and lays out the procedural rights of victims when participating in criminal proceedings. It expects EU Member States (EUMS) to ensure that professionals are trained on victims’ needs.

Concretely, article 12 of The Directive establishes the right of victims to safeguards to ensure that «victims who choose to participate in restorative justice processes, have access to safe and competent restorative justice services». The Directive defines restorative justice (RJ) as «any process whereby the victim and the offender are enabled, if they freely consent, to participate actively in the resolution of matters arising from the criminal offence through the help of an impartial third party» (article 2).

Research in Europe and in other regions has revealed that victims report lower levels of fear and post-traumatic stress symptoms after a restorative justice process. Furthermore, these kinds of processes play a major role in enhancing guarantees for children and young people involved in the process, both as perpetrators and victims of harm, who may have particular vulnerabilities due to their young age.

The outcomes of such a process must be to restore as much as possible what has been lost, damaged or violated. Victims can regain some power over their lives by having the person who harmed them accountable directly to them, by receiving answers to their questions, and by telling their story of the harm and its impact. These needs are also met through apology, reparation and compensation. All these processes require communication, preferably face-to-face, between the parties.

The proactive attitude of European institutions on children’s rights in general, as well as child-friendly justice and victims' protection in particular, has created a favourable environment in the EU for justice reforms. However, in Europe far too few people who have been harmed participate in such meetings with those who have harmed them. Justice, education and other key systems seem reluctant, usually due to a lack of knowledge and experience about RJ, to enable most victims to gain access to restorative processes.

This context is the reason why the IJJO is launching the project ‘Implementing Restorative Justice with Child Victims’ (DAPHNE JUST/2015/SPOB/AG/VICT). Its main objective will be to extend and adapt the research on RJ to demonstrate its effectiveness for young victims. Collaborating with the European Forum of Restorative Justice (EFRJ) on this project, the IJJO has decided to use the strength of two big European networks together and the experience and knowledge of the EFRJ on restorative justice to implement successful practices of juvenile restorative justice in the EU, in order to address the needs of young victims of crime committed by young offenders in the most satisfying ways.

The project will provide an opportunity for mutual learning between six countries, three of which are already using restorative justice with children successfully (the “mentor” partners), and the other three will implement observed restorative practices as part of a monitored pilot project (the “mentee” partners). In addition, in order to provide knowledge about good practices to a large pool of professionals, a practical guide on how to implement three RJ practices with children and youth will be created, and an online course will be developed based on it.

Main Activities

  • 3 pilot projects, based on a mentor-mentee relationship:
    • 3 field visits (Finland, Northern Ireland, Belgium)
    • 1 two day training session during the 3rd field visit (Belgium)
    • 3 monitoring visits (1 per country – Latvia, France, Bulgaria), as well as 2 half day meeting with national coalitions in 3 countries (Latvia, France, Bulgaria)
    • 1 two day internal training sessions in 3 countries (Latvia, France, Bulgaria)
    • ten months of concrete implementation of pilot projects in 3 countries (Latvia, France, Bulgaria)
  • Drafting of a practical guide on Implementing Restorative Justice with Children
  • Online training course based on the practical guide (2 sessions + adaptation in a self-directed course to remain online at the end of the project)
  • Final conference in Brussels
January 2017 - December 2018 - European Union Child, Criminal, Protection, Public policies

Criminal proceedings are daunting for all. However, children are more likely to be overwhelmed by the experience and less likely to participate effectively, seriously undermining their ability to receive a fair trial. In its Impact Assessment on a proposal for measures on special safeguards for children and vulnerable adults suspected or accused in criminal proceedings (hereafter, the Impact Assessment), the European Commission (hereafter, the Commission) noted that children “face a higher risk of discrimination or deprivation of their fundamental rights due to their lack of knowledge, maturity or mental and physical disabilities”.

Despite international and regional standards in this area, the Impact Assessment found that the fair trial rights of 1 million children facing criminal proceedings in the EU each year are not sufficiently guaranteed. A 2014 Commission study examined legislation and policy governing children’s involvement in criminal proceedings across the EU, highlighting the lack of key safeguards for child suspects and defendants in many countries. These include the failure to provide information in a manner specifically adapted to the child’s needs; insufficient protection from lengthy pre-trial detention; limitations on the right to be heard; and the failure to audio-visually record interviews with children.

The European Commission also identified the lack of mandatory specialist training for defence lawyers representing children as a key deficiency in many Member States, including Hungary and Romania. Defence lawyers lack interdisciplinary training (involving, for example, juvenile justice experts -lawyers, judges, prosecutors, NGOs and academics-, social workers and child psychologists) on (a) the international and regional standards which can be used to ensure children enjoy their right to a fair trial, (b) the avenues available for enforcing those standards and (c) the specific skills required to ensure that child suspects and defendants can effectively participate in criminal proceedings. Furthermore, there is an absence of regional networking opportunities through which defence lawyers representing children can exchange knowledge and develop strategic regional responses to systemic challenges facing their clients.

The EU Directive on procedural safeguards for children suspected or accused in criminal proceedings, which may reach its transposition deadline during the project timeframe, and other regional and international standards, including the Council of Europe's child-friendly justice guidelines and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, have the potential to strengthen the safeguards available for child suspects and defendants in criminal proceedings, but only if legal professionals are fully equipped to use them in their day-to-day practice.

MAIN ACTIVITIES

Regional conference: organisation of a regional conference to ensure that the development of the two main outputs of the project, the toolkit and the training programme, are informed by (a) knowledge of the challenges faced by both child suspects and defendants in criminal proceedings and the lawyers who represent them and (b) interdisciplinary expertise on the skills required by defence lawyers when representing children. The conference will provide the opportunity for a wide range of experts (including juvenile justice experts; lawyers, judges, prosecutors, NGOs and academics, as well as social workers and child psychologists) to share examples of good practice and inform the content of the toolkit and training programme. A conference report will be produced as a record of the expert input collaged during the conference.

Toolkit and training programme: the training materials, with both in-person and online components, can be used in a sustainable and replicable way to train lawyers across the EU in the knowledge and skills required effectively to represent child suspects and defendants in criminal proceedings. They are based on the perceptions of EU defence practitioners regarding the challenges faced by child suspects and defendants in criminal proceedings (including case examples), the challenges which lawyers face in providing effective legal presentation to child suspects and defendants, and the current training opportunities available to them. As well as this, the materials are based on research about existing analysis on the experience of child suspects and defendants in criminal proceedings, the perspectives of children on their experiences in criminal proceedings, and existing practice on the training of lawyers in this area.

- Production of the toolkit: to set out relevant international and regional standards, including a guide to the EU Directive, guidance on the practical application of those standards, practical checklists for defence lawyers to use when representing child suspects and defendants, and information on how to access international and regional avenues of redress.

- Production of the in-person training programme: including an agenda, sample slides, case studies, group exercises and assessments are used during the two-day training programme for defence lawyers,  including guidance for training providers on effective marketing of the programme, adaptation of the programme to the specific needs in their jurisdiction, and practical tips for the delivery of the programme.

- Production of the online training programme: featuring the materials produced for the in-person trainings, as well as short videos from expert trainers.

Regional training course: the two-day regional training course introduces bar associations from all 28 Member States to the project training materials and encourages them to deliver similar training programmes in their own jurisdictions. Adopting a train-the-trainer model, the two-day course demonstrates to participants how to use and tailor the training materials for future training opportunities. A regional training report will identify any problems with the training materials which can be addressed through further revision, and will develop practical tips on delivering training to be included in the final version of the training materials.

National training courses: country-specific training to 80 lawyers, 40 lawyers in each of Hungary and Romania, will increase their knowledge of relevant international and regional standards and improve their practical skills in order to ensure the effective participation of child suspects and defendants. Country-specific needs will have been identified through research on the challenges faced by child suspects and defendants in criminal proceedings and current approaches to the training of defence lawyers on this area of practice, as well as on lawyers' perception on their training needs. The training materials will be adapted to the specific needs in Hungary and Romania, both of which are jurisdictions where defence lawyers currently receive limited training on how to represent effectively child suspects and defendants. A short national training report will be produced on each national training course, identifying any problems with the training materials and setting out practical tips on development and delivery of country-specific training programmes for inclusion in the final version of the training materials.

 

December 2016 - May 2018 - European Union Adolescent, Disorders, Health, Illness, Justice, Juvenile, Research

The project ‘FACT FOR MINORS – Fostering Alternative Care for Troubled Minors’ intends to address children with psychological, psychiatric or personality disorders, hosted by alternative care communities (or socio-educational communities) as a consequence of penal measures.

Research interests in mental health problems in juvenile justice have grown over the past years, as several studies throughout the world have shown that mental disorders are highly prevalent among children under penal measures. This represents a significant problem, even more so if the special needs of these children remain unidentified and unaddressed, with significant long-term effects on their life chances and on their physical and mental health and well-being.

The issues raised in European justice systems by children serving a penal measure in alternative care communities that show evidence of psychological, psychiatric or personality disorders, have been poorly addressed. In general, the dilemma posed by the intervention with children in the juvenile justice with such disorders lies in the fact that an inadequate therapeutic response may lead to chronical psychiatric disorders, while an inadequate socio-educational response may result in further marginalisation.

The main issue is that these children need adequate clinical attention and present clinical dilemmas, which is why they are often a real challenge for the social workers in alternative care communities. The response to this challenge cannot lay in parallel interventions by the juvenile justice and the health sectors; instead, it lays in a proper integration of the interventions of the two agencies and of the different professionals that work for or with these children. Indeed, managing children with psychological, psychiatric or personality disorders in alternative care communities requires a holistic, multidisciplinary and multiagency approach, focused on prevention, evaluation, treatment (including emergency treatment), and recovery, considering risk evaluation of clinical and legal relapse. Such approach is therefore both therapeutic and socio-educational.

In this context, this project intends to reinforce the capacity of alternative care communities in five European Union (EU) countries -Finland, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain- to adequately support and respond to the specific needs of the children with psychiatric disorders under penal measures.

Such aim will be pursued by a two-fold action that will seek to:

 Strengthen the capacity of, and the coordination between, all professionals working with and for children in alternative care to address the needs of children with psychiatric disorders; and

 Boost interagency cooperation, in particular on issues related to the alternative care of minors under penal measures and with psychiatric disorders.

MAIN ACTIVITIES

 Successful intervention methods to address the needs of children with mental health disorders in alternative care will be identified, adapted and tested. The activities in this sense are the collection of statistic and qualitative data, where available, as well as the review of the existing national literature, practices and legal framework on alternative care communities and minors with psychological or personality disorders.

 Capacity building with professionals working with or for children in alternative care in 5 partner countries and at European level through an e-learning platform. First, a needs assessment of the identified setting for the capacity-building activities is performed; second, for the engagement of the professionals for the capacity building, there is a presentation of the project aims, the identification of the professionals’ needs and institutional strengths, and the development of a capacity-building methodology. This methodology will be tested with the partners’ supervision, and followed by several national, transnational and experts meetings and national reports.

 Strengthening of multi-agency and multi-disciplinary cooperation in the area of child protection in the 5 partner countries also through finalization of formal commitments. National multi-agency meetings will be held to contribute to this end.

 Development of outputs aimed at ensuring maximum impact, visibility and sustainability of the project results and in particular of the capacity building methodology developed. The outputs will be the European guidelines for the alternative care of children with special needs and the European Handbook for professionals working with children in alternative care. A website of the project will also be set up, and the project outputs’ impact will be verified at the national level by the corresponding Ministries.

 Communication and dissemination events to present project resulst and raise awareness on the rights of children in alternative care. The dissemination events will be held at the national level by the corresponding Ministries, and a final conference will be organised in Brussels. Finally, all partners will contribute to the dissemination of the project’s results through social media and events.

 

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