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Saturday 6th of June 2020

IJJO Conference

Sistemas de Justicia Juvenil en Europa: Situación actual, tendencias de modelos aplicables y buenas prácticas

Conclusions of the Third International Conference organised by the IJJO

Conclusions presented by Mr José Luis de la Cuesta Arzamendi, Co-Chairman of the Scientific Committee and Director of the Basque Institute of Criminology (IVAC)

1. Research and get to know the reality better

Juvenile delinquency attracts great attention and causes social concern. It would be advisable to promote and develop sufficient criminological research and study that allow its extent and importance to be adequately defined, whilst avoiding the advocation of substantial changes of direction and urgent, ill-thought-out reforms, which are based on exceptional events or facts and in no way reflect the reality of the vast majority of offences committed by minors and youth.

2. Shared basis and common criteria

In spite of the existing differences, thorough research of the different compared systems highlights the existence of shared bases and common criteria that should be reinforced. This seems especially important in Europe where some community organisms are already highlighting the establishment of a shared re-education and reintegration project for juvenile offenders

3. Intervention methods

As far as intervention methods go, multiple reasons advise giving priority to all kinds of multifaceted preventive approaches as well as opening diversion pathways at all intervention levels with minor offenders that allow the resolution of the conflicts caused as far as possible, avoiding judicial intervention. This way, mechanisms like mediation and other repairing or restorative methods are widely presented as responses that have been deemed highly adequate for various offences committed by minors. That is why they need to be promoted and developed.

4. The matter of the age

A matter which causes a lot of public debate is the determination of the minimum age for imposing sanctions or measures as a result of having committed an offence. Facing the constant temptation of lowering the established age, we should remind you that the international texts and institutions state that minimum age should not be too low and should always be determined by law. As such, and following that which was approved by the XVII International Congress on Criminal Law held in Beijing in 2004, the responses to (even serious) offences committed by minors under 14 years old should be given through the social services, who should be able to apply, when necessary, appropriate detention measures under strict judicial control. Concerning young people between 18 and 21, systems should be established that allow for the imposition of sanctions and measures for minors when it is clearly necessary for their development and individual circumstances.

5. Answers

In terms of sanctions, the answers to offences committed by minors should be wide, varied and constantly subjected to assessment in order to improve them and if necessary, correct faults or inadequacies that have been observed. Priority should be given to the sanctions and measures that can have an educational impact as well as strengthen responses to the offence committed by a minor within the restorative justice framework. It is important to guarantee the participation of minors and young people in the processes of imposing and carrying out sanctions and measures and to take, as far as possible, the rights and responsibilities of parents and guardians into consideration. Their participation in the procedures and in the execution of the sanctions or measures has to be reinforced, except when it is not in the minor's best interest.

6. Sanctions and measures

Imposing and applying sanctions or measures, adapted to the circumstances of each case, without unnecessary delays and limited by the seriousness of the offences committed (principle of proportionality), should be based on the minor's best interest and according to their age, dealing with their physical and mental welfare, development, skills and personal circumstances (principle of individualisation), defined through the necessary psychological, psychiatric and social reports.

7. Selection and personal training

Those who work with minors and young people carry out an important public service which deserves to be adequately recognised. Appropriate selection, special training and working conditions are essential in order to guarantee multidisciplinary teams characterised by the quality of the care and attention that is necessary in the hard task of responding to the different needs of the minors and offering them positive behaviour models.

8. Minors deprived of their liberty

Because of the extreme vulnerability of minors deprived of their liberty, it is necessary to intensify efforts to ensure the protection of their physical and mental integrity and their welfare. The essential content of the intervention with juvenile offenders deprived of their liberty and the educational and training programmes have to be adapted to the age, gender, social and cultural characteristics, the development level and type of offence. They have to be consistent with professional standards based on research and inspired by the best practices. On the other hand, special attention should be given to the needs of minors who have suffered physical, psychological or sexual abuse. From its very beginning, the detention structures and the services and agencies that supervise and assist released minors and yong people will work together in order to obtain their social reintegration.

9. International recommendations

We must highlight the work of the international institutions with a view to the adequate formulation and development of minimum bases and criteria for intervention with young offenders. Even when it is insisted that their condition remains that of mere recommendations without any compulsory effective scope, it is important to remember the criteria of many constitutional courts who consider that the lack of respect for the internationally recommended principles and postulates by the internal legislations, could indicate the violation of the constitutional parameters on the minor's rights and guarantees.

10. Legislation - reality

Finally, research highlights the great distances between the parameters fixed by the rules and the reality of the application of laws in a substantial number of countries. The authorities should provide the institutions for minors with sufficient resources in means and staff to extend best practices in order to guarantee that the interventions have a really significant influence in the minors' lives. The lack of resources should never justify the lack of respect for the minors' rights.


Download the conclusions

  • International Juvenile Justice Observatory (IJJO). Belgian Public Utility Foundation

    All rights reserved

  • Head Office: Rue Armand Campenhout, nº 72 bte 10. 1050. Brussels. Belgium

    Phone: 00 32 262 988 90. Fax: 00 32 262 988 99. oijj@oijj.org

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