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.
In order to properly apply child-friendly justice, respecting children’s right to information is essential, as well as adapting such information to their age, in a language that they can understand (Guidelines of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on Child Friendly Justice, 2010). Children should be informed about their rights during all stages of the proceedings, in a language which they are able to understand.
In this framework, the project ‘Child-Friendly JT - The right of minors to information, translation and interpretation in criminal proceedings: Development of child-friendly justice tools’, aims to contribute to the correct implementation of Directives 2012/13/EU (on the right of information in criminal proceedings), 2010/64/EU (on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings) and 2016/800/EU (on procedural safeguards for children suspected or accused in criminal proceedings).
To do so, children's knowledge of their rights during the judicial process will be assessed. In order to analyse this knowledge, an evaluation questionnaire will be created, and later, discussion groups within detention centres for juvenile offenders will be organised.
After an evaluation of the needs expressed during the project, three information brochures will be created for children, in which their rights throughout the criminal procedure will be presented. The brochures will also contain relevant information on criminal procedures, all in a language adapted to the child’s comprehension capacity.
In order to develop these documents, the needs of the different participating countries will be analysed through the results obtained. These brochures will be different according to each stage of the judicial process: police arrest / custody, trial and detention. The goal is for children to be able to participate in their own judicial process and for them to be aware of their rights.
In addition, taking into consideration the child’s right to interpretation and translation under a child-friendly justice system, these brochures will be translated into the 24 official languages of the European Union, as well as in the 3 non-official languages most present within European juvenile justice systems.
Likewise, 3 information brochures will be developed for parents/holders of parental authority, in order for them to have access to clear information, available in a simplified language.
In order to analyse the impact and the effectiveness of the information brochures, a pilot study containing a pre and post evaluation will be carried out with 2 independent groups (juvenile offenders and children outside the juvenile justice system).
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.
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.
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’ (JUST/2015/RDAP/AG/VICT/9344). 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.
- 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
As the European agenda and recent events demonstrate, the issues of radicalisation and violent extremism, which may be conducive to terrorism, have increasingly become a priority for most Member States.
However, in the midst of the rush to enact counter-terrorism legislation at national and European levels, little if any consideration has been given to the fact that some of the suspected or alleged ‘terrorists’ could be children or underage juveniles.
The way terrorist suspects are treated in general needs to be considered in relation to the particular impact it may have on suspected girls and boys under the age of 18, who are children before they are suspects. Nevertheless, children adapted policies and practices in the field of counter-terrorism do not exist in most European Union Member States (EUMS) and where they do, they are specific to each country and promising experiences are not shared between Member States.
Moreover, juvenile justice agencies and practitioners as well as social actors in many EUMS have expressed a pressing need for support to help them identify, prevent and deal with radicalisation and extreme violence in children and young adults.
In consequence, the project “Strengthening Juvenile Justice Systems in the counter-terrorism context: Capacity-building and peer-learning among stakeholders” (JUST-2015-JCOO-AG-TERR) aims to address juveniles’ unique situation and their protection under international and European law in the context of counter-terrorism.
It equally addresses the requirement and urgency for juvenile justice systems to resort to diversion, alternatives and community based measures in addition to, and where possible instead of, usual criminal justice responses in the treatment of radicalised juveniles.
Moreover, due to the special situation of vulnerability and risk of being recruited in detention, it is essential to draw special attention to children deprived of liberty. The prevention of juvenile radicalisation in detention, as well as the need to design de-radicalisation and social inclusion programmes, are also a component of this project.
The project launches in January 2017 and is expected to end approximately in December 2018.
- Research and analytical work. Identification, analysis and highlight of promising practices regarding counter-terrorism and public policies, strategies and programmes directed at radicalised juveniles in partners' MS; analysis and mapping of promising practices at the European level, identification of key success factors, impact assessment and validation of these experiences.
- Study/field visits followed by national seminars: highlighted promising practices in partners' countries are observed and studied, and later discussed during national seminars.
- Drafting of a policy-oriented white paper, including recommendations and guidelines based on the project’s results, for EUMS and EU institutions, as well as for practitioners of juvenile justice systems.
- Drafting of a regional overview report on promising policy responses and practices, based on the results of the research.
- Launching and managing of an online community of practice for European practitioners, which allows the sharing of practices, experiences and ideas, as well as the implementation of possibilities, regarding counter-terrorism policies and programmes directed at juveniles.
- Final conference in Paris to present the results of the project and the draft white paper.