Erika Varadi presents the situation and current youth justice system in Hungary. Mrs. Varadi Criminology Professor at the Sciences Institute Criminals, Criminal Law and Criminology Department of the Miskolc University in Hungary, analyses the evolution of the current youth delinquency prevention system in Hungary. Reintegration of youth who are in conflict with the law is one of the main objectives of the programs and instruments which are focused in youth crime prevention in such country.
Dr. Erika Varadi-Csema PhD vice-dean, associate professor, lawyer (public attorney), foreign trade law-specialist. She works as a secondary head of the Department of Criminal Law and Criminology at the Institute of the Criminal Sciences and the Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Miskolc. After her studies she passed the judge examination and pursued postgraduate studies on the field of foreign trade law. 2000 she accomplished her PhD-dissertation on the research field of juvenile justice. Her scientific interests are e.g. minors’ criminality, juvenile justice, child- and juvenile-welfare. As a vice-dean of the Faculty of Law the leading of international and scientific activities of the Faculty belong to her. Her educational (tutorial) activity is large. She takes part not only in the compulsory and optional courses for the law-student and in the PhD-courses, but has lectures at other Law-Faculties and in the Faculty of Arts, in the Crime-Prevention Academy of the Home Office, and she professes e.g.: judges, representatives of children’s laws, engineers, economists, law-officers, probation officers and crime-prevention’s rapporteur. She takes part in some special research-programs as a researcher at the university or together with other institutes (e.g.: the Research Institute for Addictology). She had some scholarships, so she could work e.g.: in Freiburg, Munich and Salzburg. She usually takes part and has presentations in international and national conferences. She is a member of different Hungarian and international professional committees and associations (e.g.: ESC, NKG, EWLA (European Women Lawyers Association)).
She worked and works as an expert for different institutions (e.g.: Ministry of Justice and Law Enforcement, Ministry of Social and Family Welfare, the Cabinet of Crime-Minister (Chancellery), National Crime-Prevention Board, Professional Group of the Drug-prevention, National Militiaman Association, ..) and in the GERN and AGIS-projects of COE. She hustles as a lawyer too. In a special program she takes a defence for perpetrators and represents the victims in the disadvantageous situation in the criminal procedure.
QUESTION.- Can you please present us a short introduction of your activity related to juvenile justice, as a professional involved in this field?
ANSWER.- I have been related to the field of juvenile justice professionally from many views: as educational (tutor), as leader, as researcher, as expert and as lawyer.
As I have been working at the University of Miskolc, Faculty of Law since 1989 as an associate professor, I have delivered lectures regularly on the field of general and special parts of criminal law. Furthermore, I am responsible for a lot of subjects at the university (e.g.: criminology, national and international tendencies in the youth’s justice, victim oriented prevention street-law program, children’s right oriented street-law program, supervision by probation officers in practice, women’s roles and criminality).
Moreover, I have delivered lectures at the courses of the Regional Education Crime Prevention Centre of the University of Miskolc (e.g.: prevention of child and youth deviant behavior, prevention of youth’s violence, conflict handling as a tool of the prevention of domestic violence).
As a Vice–Dean of the Faculty of Law I’m responsible for projects, researches in connection with the relevant topic and trainings and educational programs etc., which has the aim to train experts of youth justice.
My special research activity is the child and juvenile criminality, youth’s justice, child and youth’s welfare etc. So I have taken part in several national and international research activity (e.g.:”GERN” project and AGIS project), and regularly take part in the national and international conferences.
In addition, at these professional conferences, I actively carry out professional tasks for several institutions. (e.g.: Ministry of Justice and Law Enforcement, Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, National Crime Prevention Board)
On the other hand, I am practicing as a lawyer, so I face the youth’s justice in reality as well. I am working in criminal procedures in the interest of child and juvenile victims and juvenile offenders with detrimental situation.
Q.- Can you please provide us a short description of the Institute for Criminal Sciences at the University of Miskolc in Hungary?
A.- The Institute for Criminal Sciences led by Professor Ákos Farkas is the part of an old and large Hungarian university. Its roots go back high in the past. In 1735 the Court Chamber of Vienna founded a new school of mining and metallurgy in a small Hungarian city, Selmecbánya. This was the first school on the world, where high level knowledge of mining and metallurgy was educated and the first school in the Habsburg Empire founded by the state and operating under non-ecclesiastical control. It’s very interesting for me, that the first international technical association in the world was established in 1786 at Szklenó, near Selmecbánya, under the direction of professors from Selmec. This association had so famous members, like Lavoisier, Goethe or Watt.
During the lasted time the “Bergschule” moved to Sopron and Miskolc. The University of Miskolc was developed to a real “universitas”, which has 8 faculties (Earth Science and Engineering, Materials Science Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Informatics, Law, Economics, Arts, Health Care Studies and Comenius Training College Academical) and one institute (Bartók Béla Institute of Music).
The Institute of Criminal Sciences at the Faculty of Law has two departments: the Department of Criminal Law and Criminology and the Department of Criminal Procedure Law and Law Enforcement.
The senior lecturer of the Department of Criminal Law and Criminology is Professor Ilona Görgényi. From the colleagues of our Department Prof. Miklós Lévay is working presently as elected Judge of the Constitutional Court. Many of our previous colleagues are working in different institutions of the EU and the Council of Europe or at the IMF.
The educational and research activity of the department is wide from the economic criminal law to the gender studies. The colleagues are working actively in the professional and common life as well. Thanks for this scientific activity all of them have PhD, except for one young colleague.
We have a great publication activity. The institute has organized several scientific conferences in this year about the different forms of mediation and the legal and illegal forms of validation.
Q.- How has juvenile justice been formulated in Hungary over the course of the last few decades? What special effects were called forth by the previous political system?
A.-In the history of youth’s justice there are two special points: the one is the great political and economical changes in 1989/90 and the other is the joining to the EU.
After the Second World War there was a socialist political system. But even during this period there were changes related to youth perpetrators. Between 1948-1956 there was the dictatorship of the “proletars”(the lower classes). This is characterized very well by the fact that criminology as a science and as a university-subject did not exist in Hungary during this period.
According to the ideas of this system, the communist man did not commit crimes; those who did were the enemy of commons and the present political system. The criminal act was determined as an effective weapon in the hands of commons, which could be used in the fight led by the big Soviet Union in the interest of the development of the socialist Hungary. After the revolution, from 1956, the political system has changed, this can be observed in the rhetoric of the Criminal Code of 1961.
But even in these difficult periods of the Hungarian legal history the concept of education was the most determining factor in the juvenile criminal procedure – at least at the level of the principles. They aspired to measures, which facilitated the juvenile’s development in the right way and to educate them to be useful members of the society.
The presently valid Criminal Code of 1978 came into force on 1st January 1979. Although at the beginning this continued the main approach of the previous Criminal Code, but in the last few decades there were significant modifications, mostly with a focus on the international obligations.
Nevertheless it is very important to mention that the regulations of our Criminal Code were satisfactory for the most important requirements in connection with the basic human rights and fair criminal procedures, earlier too.
The changes after 89/90 in Criminal Code affected for example the possibilities of diversion and the method of approach concerning practice of criminal justice.
During this period, some important international conventions were ratified by Hungary e.g.: the UNO-Convention about the Rights of the Child with the Act of 1991.
After joining the EU, following the documents of the EU and recommendations of COE this is not only a possibility but also an obligation for Hungary.
Thanks for this, some new acts came into force e.g.: on the protection of the victims or the mediation. These affected the treatment of minors significantly as well.
Q.- What is the context of childrens rights fulfilment in Hungary? And the application of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in particular in the case of child and youngster in conflict with the law?
A.- The Hungarian State protects the rights of the children with many different laws.
Beside the Hungarian Constitution, the most important from these ones is the Act on Child Protection from 1997 (1997:XXXI.). The purpose of the law is to ensure the rights of the children and their protection in the activity of the State, official institutions and to promote among common people. The Act declares the rights of the children in its Second Chapter. All of the rights are defined in this part, which are known in other European countries as well. The most important rule is that the child has right to grow up in a family which guarantees it’s physical, mental, emotional and moral development, healthy growing-up and its well-being. The background of the Act is the UNO-Convention on the Rights of the Child. This document was promulgated in 1991 with the Act of 64.
The protection of children’s rights appears in other laws as well. For example: the Civil Code, the Act of the Family Rights, the Labor Code, or the Educational Act.
The Hungarian Criminal Code and the Hungarian Criminal Procedure Act have special regulations for the cases in which child and juvenile victims or minor perpetrators appear. The protection of children is carried out on three levels in the Hungarian Criminal Code. There are special statements of facts, which can be applied only in those cases when the injured party is a minor (persons under 18-year old). (For example: abusing a minor, changing the custody of a minor or misusing of a prohibited pornographic picture.) In the case of more crimes, aggregative circumstances are differentiated based on the age. (For example: in the case of the rape against persons under 12-year-old or in the case of the homicide against persons under 14-year old.) It is special for many crimes that the legislator does not evaluate any kind of age category of the injured party. However, the court imposing the sentence takes into account the age of the injured party for the charge of the defendant (e.g.: robbery)
The Chapter VII of the Hungarian Criminal Code and the Chapter 21 of the Hungarian Criminal Procedure Act have special rules and forms of special institutions for juvenile perpetrators. These rules ensure the protection of the children’s rights listed in the New York Convention.
Q.- What is the current legislation in force for the penal law on minors in conflict with the law in Hungary?
A.-Children under the age of 14 cannot be punished. Juvenile is a person who has passed the age of 14 years but not the age of 18 years when committing the crime. In the cases when children commit crimes the Acts of Child Protection can be applied.
In the cases of juvenile criminality, the presence of the legal responsibility is the condition of liability. Other conditions - for example the mental capacity to understand the wrongfulness of the committed act or the intellectual and moral maturity of the juvenile - are not relevant.
The aim of the sanctions or measures applicable on juveniles is primarily to influence the development of the juvenile and to ensure that he or she becomes a useful member of the society. The first step is the special prevention. In order to achieve this special treatment the Code provides special measures for juvenile delinquents. During the criminal procedure, the most of the special rules regarding juveniles concern the means of evidence pre-trial detention and special proceedings in juvenile cases. In the cases of juvenile perpetrators, only the prosecutor of juveniles and the juvenile court with exclusive jurisdiction can decide.
Q.- How effective do you find this juvenile justice system? Would you change anything in it?
A.- In my view the juvenile justice in case of juvenile criminal act is an “ultima ratio”
However, there were not detailed Hungarian scientific research in connection with the effectiveness of the juvenile justice system, but the ratio of recidivism and the frequency of the criminal activity are relatively high among young people.
Lately, there have been more positive changes in the Hungarian rules.
The possibility of the application of “postponement of indictment”, the mediation or the special rules in connection with supervision by probation officers are better answers for the youth criminality than formal sanctions. As a result of these changes, the Criminal Justice can be more effective. The legal possibilities are given, but in many cases, there are financial barriers. At the same time, there is need for changing other laws as well: the types of the sanctions, the cases of mediation or the kinds of common sanction were flared.
The real crime prevention has to be started in the kinder-gardens and schools as well.
Q.- Which detention measures can be applied for them, and what is the penal responsibility age in Hungary? Approximately how many minors are under custody currently?
A.- As I have already mentioned earlier the age limit of the liability is the age of 14.
The Hungarian Criminal Procedure Act introduces different forms of the custody measures. In connection with juveniles, the most important are the detention and the pre-trial detention. According to the general rules of the Act, the arrest is a special form of temporary deprivation of somebody’s freedom, which can last max. 72 hours. This can be applied in the case if somebody can be subjected to suspicion beyond reasonable doubt and the likelihood of his/her pre-trial detention is high. The pre-trial detention can be ordered only by the judge in criminal procedures caused by such criminal act, which can be punished with imprisonment, for example: danger of runaway or sheltering, the danger of committing a crime again or the possibility of threat of the witnesses. The duration of pre-trial detention is minimum 1 month.
In the cases of juvenile perpetrators, the pre-trial detention can be ordered when this is reasonable due to the special danger of the crime. The pre-trial detention is executed in a reformatory institute or in a prison for juvenile delinquents called detention centre.
These forms of the deprivation of somebody’s freedom are not too often applied. For example in 2006 the number of juvenile perpetrators in arrest was 659, in pre-trial detention was 341 from 13587 youth suspected. The ratio of these juveniles among all youth perpetrators was 7,4 %.
Q.- What is the current regulation in force regarding the separation of juveniles and adults in detention?
A.- The Act about the Enforcement of Sanctions and Measures (1979:11.tvr.) says that the juvenile must be separated from the adults during the pre-trial detention (119.§. (2)). According to this, the pre-trial detention of juveniles has to be carried out only in special institutions: reformatory school or prison for juveniles. Therefore, this obligation has importance in the case of separation of juvenile from the young adults (between ages of 18-21). Yet there are exceptions in the Act. (119. § (3), (4))
The significance of the separation of juveniles and adults appear first in connection with the arrest, this is executed in the jail of the police, which was formed in the Jail Regulation (19/1995. (XII.13.) BM.sz.r.). According to both of the mentioned Acts, there is a legal obligation of the separation of the adults and juveniles.
However, there are cases when the juvenile has to be arrested in the cell of the adult due to the abominable behavior among the juveniles if there is no other possibility for separation.
Q.- According to the child legal system in Hungary, are diversion measures foreseen?, in this case, are they implemented? and in which extent?
A.-In the juvenile justice system in Hungary some forms of diversion can be applied. The prosecutor can terminate the criminal procedure with reprimand or he/she can postpone the indictment. Prosecutors can postpone the indictment in the interest of the juvenile offender, from one to 2 years, and if the criminal act is punishable by imprisonment below 5 years with the next criterion: remarkable mitigating circumstances; presumable good changes in the behavior of the suspected/accuser; the aim of the juvenile justice (in the interest of the right for development of juvenile). This institution gives the possibility to diversion by the case, when the crime is minor or middle-serious. (CPA Art. 222. § (1); 459. § (1)) There are two compulsory forms of diversion: the prosecutor postpones the indictment for one year, if the proceeding was suspended in the case of drug addiction, and the drug abuser provides medical proof of his/her participation in the special treatment or training (CC §. 283., CPA §. 222. (2)). If the training is successful, the procedure will be dismissed. The prosecutor postpones the indictment for one year, if the proceeding was suspended in the case of “failure to provide maintenance”, and the discharge of the neglected obligation is expectable (CPA §. 222. (3)). The prosecutor can order rules of conduct. Some form of this have a strong restorative character.
The new form for diversion is mediation. We have not too long experiences because this new possibility has come into force only since January 2007. The prosecutor can transfer the case to mediation if the given crime is punishable with the maximum of five years of imprisonment (the general rule is three years). The juvenile shall not be punishable who damaged the afflicted person by crimes against the person, crimes against transportation safety and crimes against property - which shall not be punishable with imprisonment of more than five years -, and the perpetrator refunded the damage in the frame of the mediator’s procedure or the perpetrator repaired the damage resulted by this crime in other way.
The judge can apply mediation too or the special form for diversion, the probation. Another possibility is that the indictment can be postponed if the crime is punishable with the maximum of five years of imprisonment (the general rule is three years)
Q.- According to your collaboration with the ‘National Crime Prevention Board (OBMB) what are meant by primary and secondary (or tertiary) crime prevention today in Hungary regarding minors?
A.- The primary, secondary and tertiary crime prevention level is based on the crime prevention system of J.J.M. van Dijk. According to this, the primary crime prevention is such a prevention strategy, which aims all of the citizens and works with the wide range of the tools-from the field of economy, culture or social sphere, especially in the period before the crime. This, of course, needs a general collaboration in our counts as well in the case of minors.
The “National Strategy of the Social Crime-Prevention” and the Activity Plan connected to this program (adopted in this year the Government Decree is 1035/2008.) defines clearly the tasks and obligations of the sate institutions and the responsible institutions of the given activity. The Ministries has to cooperate with professional chambers, associations and civil groups, NGOs and scientific institutions in order to achieve the goal.
The secondary crime prevention wants to reach those persons with different tool-system, who can be potential perpetrators. In the Hungarian crime prevention system and in the activity of the National Crime Prevention Board it has a great significance to prevent that those juveniles and children who are in moral danger become perpetrators or victims. On the one hand there are several tenders from the side of National Crime Prevention Board which ensure the possibility to run prevention programs in schools, culture centre etc. On the other hand a great project (Social Renewal Operative Program ÚMFT - TÁMOP 5.6.2) is in progress, which ensures the possibility to realize objective and subjective conditions of an effective crime prevention, to run model projects in more regions in 2009/10, etc
The tertiary crime prevention applies measures by the police, the rules of criminal law, the institutions of criminal procedure law etc. The aim of this level is to prevent the perpetrator from committing crime again. According to this aim there were several changes in the institutional background of the criminal justice and the legal background ( e.g.: enlarging the possibilities of diversion) and there have been several programs with the financial support of the National Crime Prevention Board in the interest of the reintegration of juvenile perpetrators.
Q.- What legal evolution preceded the currently effectual crime prevention system in Hungary?
A.- The currently effectual crime prevention system is a result of development in the last 15-20 years.
The economic and social transformation after the political changes made radical changes in the life-circumstances and the ownerships. The number of crimes has become suddenly high, and the fear of the crime poisons the social or common connections. This way directs to the demand of a higher security of the society. In order to build up this new situation the legislation, the government and the wide society must cooperate. For reaching these aims, there were widespread codification activities. We made a couple of new rules, such as the modernization of the probation officer’s system or the creation of a new structure, institution of providing legal assistance („lawyer of the public”). The aim of the Act LXXX of 2003 is to build up a new institution for the masses with detrimental situation. They receive professional legal advices and representation for defending their interests in different processes.
Several institutions were established for the coordination of the crime-prevention activities, primarily for the professional control of the communal crime-prevention activities. As a result, two main systems have appeared: one of these belonged to the Ministry of Justice and the other one to the Ministry of Internal Affaires. The crime-prevention activity of the Ministry of Internal Affaires have had two parts: the first was the coordination and fulfillment of the tasks in connection with National Strategy of Social Crime-prevention, the second part belonged to the international requirements especially in connection with the organized crime. After the Parliamentary vote in 2006, the new situation appeared: the structure of the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry if Internal Affaires were reorganized. A new ministry was born under the name of Ministry of Law Enforcement and Justice. Since this moment only the field of self or local governments belonged to the Ministry of Internal Affaires. In the borders of the Ministry of Law Enforcement and Justice the National Crime-Prevention Board is still operating. This committee coordinates the community-based crime-prevention activities and its function is the professional preparation of the codification and the professional consultancy. The National Strategy of the Social Crime-Prevention, the Decree 115 of the Hungarian Parliament of 2003 gives the frames of the communal crime-prevention. The Strategy indicates the fields of the intervention, where the community team can be successful. These are the prevention and mitigation in the case of child and youth criminality, the increasing of the security in the cities, the prevention of the domestic violence, the prevention of becoming victim, support of the victim, compensation for the victim and the prevention of the recidivism.
Q.- What instruments do the Hungarian State dispose to help to prevent juvenile delinquency? What kind of programs are running currently?
A.- As I have already mentioned earlier there were serious changes in the legal and institutional background of the criminal justice in the last years. The establishment of the Office of Justice, the reorganization of the probation officers’ institution was a successful step as well as the enlargement of the possibilities of diversion. With regard to the important role of the prevention of child and youth criminality in the Hungarian crime prevention strategy, the National Crime Prevention Board is the main coordinator of this activity. Thanks for this the state institutions and civil organizations have become active on the field of youth crime prevention.
In the interest of the prevention and mitigation of the child- and juvenile criminality there are different projects, which aim for example the development of the indicative-system, the trainings and the cooperation of the experts, the development of the intensification of the children’s scale of values, the support of youth in an insecure situation or the integration of the juvenile accused into the society. The most successful programs are shown on the website of the National Crime Prevention Board under the name Good practice every year.
Q.- What circumstances are meant by 'risk factors' nowadays in Hungary regarding future delinquency? What are the initiatives in order to prevent children living with augmented risk factors to become a future offender?
A.-The causes of becoming a perpetrator are generally the same like in other European countries. The improper family background, the bad school achievement, the detrimental situation or the poor social environment can be found among the risk factors.
Between 2004 and 2006 the experts (with the leading of Ágnes Solt) examined the way of living of deprival and marginalized juveniles with detrimental circumstances. One section of these young people committed crimes, but the other section – the “reference group” – did not become offenders despite the same bad social background. The target audience was juveniles between the ages of 16 and 25. The experts made 95 deep-interviews and life-interviews.
The research gathered the risk factors, from which a minimum two characterized each examined juvenile. These factors have been the following: parents with alcohol-problem, brutal domestic violence, direct abuse or/and neglect, deep-poverty, adult with criminal career in the family and the unexpected death of one of the parents or the person, who supported the juvenile. Beyond these the experts found other characteristics, such as the continuous changing environment in result of the regular moving (house) and the endangering deviant age group (e.g.: gangs) in the direct environment of each juvenile.
In order to cancel these factors there is a great need for significant changes in the social-political, economical etc field. Of course, in the interest of this several efforts have been made in our country. By underlining one risk factor, e.g.: under-education, we can mention several programs. The goal of the “Sure Start Program” is a successful school starting by realizing the problems at the very beginning, and taking continuous and direct care of the children and parents with detrimental situation. Programs were started for those juveniles who were missing from the school. Beside the Improvement Program for the Vocational School the goal of “The Reintegration of Children in Detrimental Situation” is to form the reporting-system of those children, who suffer from learning disabilities, to achieve reintegration programs or to organize programs for those youngsters, who were missing from the school or remained unemployed. The parents are involved in the programs if it is possible. It is a very important factor in the organization of the out-of-school activities, to ensure the possibility for those children, who are in moral danger (both the harmful and endangered persons), and their parents to take part in common activities.
Q.- How does Hungarian juvenile justice system operate with the application of restorative justice? In your opinion do this kind of sentences effectively promote crime prevention?
A.- There was a possibility for compensation in the earlier Hungarian Criminal Code. The fact, that the perpetrator compensated the caused damage is an obstacle for criminal liability in the case of some crimes. For example in some cases of tax-fraud or failure to provide maintenance if the person pays the left tax or the missed alimony until a certain period of the procedure is excused from the liability. The Code has already said with general validity in the case of some crimes against property, if the perpetrator announces the crime and compensates damage or does everything in the interest of this, his or her punishment could be mitigated without barriers or even disregard. On the other hand, the compensation of the damage was a mitigating circumstance.
The restorative justice in its wholly form has been present in Hungary since 01.01. 2007. The mediation – as I have already mentioned – can be applied in certain cases. In connection with juveniles, the Act does not contain important differences; there is only one exception for those crimes, which could be punished by 5-year imprisonment.
We have been waiting so much for this Act. To my mind, the mediation is a more powerful retaining tool than any other punishment in order not to commit crime again. At the same time the practice has an important role as well. We were lucky from the point of view that the Western countries have already had experiences in this area and we could choose from several successful methods and examples. Our colleagues for example could learn not only in Austria but also in the Netherlands, yet other civil organizations, associations have brought the American method to us. The effect of the Hungarian mediation cannot be evaluated yet due to the short period of time.
Q.- Regarding the juvenile justice system across Europe, what kind of collaboration does exist between Hungary and the others member states of the European Union? Do exists bilateral agreements? Does the EU itself provide effective help in the field of juvenile justice?
A.- Hungary is affected by similar cooperation forms like other EU-member-country. Although, compared to the other Western European countries, there is a difference: the effect of the European membership on juvenile justice. In the last period, the Hungarian codification activity has been under the vast effect of the obligation deriving from the integration to the European Union. Several new legal institutions appeared which had never existed before in Hungary. The last positive change was e.g. the introduction of mediation. Instead of special bilateral agreements, which exist in the field of international criminal legal cooperation, the international connections work successfully among the institutions. The Hungarian experts, researchers or the state institutions (e.g.: office of justice) are the members of several international research teams, associations, etc. Our colleagues are involved in international researches and in the European professional bloodstream.
Q.- How do the Hungarian Government actually help youths to reintegrate? Does there exist any specific NGO or social program which provides help and support for them?
A.- The furtherance and the support of the youths reintegration is one of the most special aim of the crime-prevention programs. Regarding this issue, I have mentioned earlier the activity of the national crime preventions board. Naturally, the Hungarian government will set it in motion with the help of laws, e.g.: our penal law. These rules facilitate the continued reintegration of juvenile into the society and the preparation for this path during the enforcement of sanctions. But the post-release assistance activity of the Office of Justice is a grate help too. The NGO is keen on helping the juveniles who have been released from jail with specials programs so that they find adequate accommodation and job.
Q.- What psychological, mental help resources are available for youths with such needs in Hungary (meaning minors living with augmented risk factors and actual offenders as well)? Are there officially (i.e. inside Hungarian jurisdiction) any specific units for this target group?
A.-Those juveniles who need psychological or mental help can receive support, especially within the child and youth welfare system. The family aid centers, the child and youth welfare assistants of the schools, the school-psychologist, the professional experts of the different child and youth welfare institutions can give a special help to the youth in need. Obviously, the precondition of this activity is the well functioning signalization system.
In the case of juvenile crime commitment, his or her psychological problem shall be assessed during the sentencing activity. In the juvenile prison and especially in the juvenile reformatory, professional experts e.g. psychologists, medical educators, social workers etc are working, who are able to provide psychological aid for the minors in need. If the mental problem is so big, that the juvenile is in lack of legal capacity, the court can order involuntary treatment in mental institutions with determined circumstances without the impeachment of the juvenile. At the same time, the most important obligation is to prevent the potential offender from becoming a real offender. In order to reach this aim, the signalization system must be reinforced. Therefore, the professional experts who work together with youth in detrimental situations, with risk factors or in need, can interact as soon as possible, and the minor in need can use the accessible support. The activity of the NGO-s in the interest of minor victims is very important. The most famous NGOs in Hungary are the “White Ring”, the “Eszter” Foundation and the “NANE” Association which work together with the victims of domestic or sexual violence.
Q.- What is the actual situation regarding juvenile violence in Hungary? What is y0our analysis on the recent case of the stabbing young boy in Budapest?
A.-In the last period, some very unpleasant crimes have occurred in Hungary. In some months, a couple of cases have been revealed, where kids attacked their teachers. A greater shock was created by the case of the student, who hurt his two classmates so badly, that he eventually died, while two middle school students have tortured and killed their schoolmate. At the same time the data of the official statistics do not indicate the negative changes in the number of juvenile perpetrators or their criminal acts. Moreover among the youth violent criminal acts there are only a few crimes (for e.g. robbery, blackmail), where the youth are overrepresented among the perpetrators. It is a fact, that those behaviors (e.g. physical abuse of the teachers), which earlier were not wide-spread in Hungary, appear on larger scale nowadays and the criminal acts are characterized often with insane brutality. It is my opinion that in the background of the increase of violence is the crisis of the Hungarian society and the family, the changes in moral values and the common tolerance against the violence.
Your question refers to the case when a 10- year-old boy (called Krisztián) from Romania stabbed seriously a student because the boy did not give to Krisztián his mp3 player. It happened in the afternoon at a bus-station in the centre of Budapest. It was revealed that this young child dominated the square of Blaha Lujza and the underpass, terrorized the passers-by, and committed robberies, thefts for many months. This case made a lion of the question of child and juvenile criminality. The young boy was not punishable because of his age, and as usual, it could be used according to the Child and Youth Protection Act. But in this concrete case, the fact that this young boy had a Rumanian citizenship paralyzed the work of the authority. Although he was transported several times in the child welfare institution, he escaped every time. The public opinion hardly tolerated the powerlessness of the authority and the terrible situation in the square of Blaha Lujza. At the end the boy was handed over to the Rumanian authorities, but the discussion and the debate about the minimum age of the punishability and the treatment of same cases is lasting presently too. This is a fact, that this young boy was affected by every risk factor, which the researchers take important. (It was very shocking to watch in the TV, that the reporter became the victim of a pocket-picking by the slum-inhabitants while he was making his report about this case.)
International Juvenile Justice Observatory (IJJO). Belgian Public Utility Foundation
All rights reserved
Head Office: Rue Mercelis, nº 50. 1050. Brussels. Belgium
Phone: 00 32 262 988 90. Fax: 00 32 262 988 99. firstname.lastname@example.org