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Children in criminal proceedings 09/06/2014 EU Justice Ministers have agreed a general approach to special safeguards for children during criminal court proceedings.

Children in criminal proceedings

EU Justice Ministers last week agreed on a general approach for measures that will guarantee special safeguards for children during criminal court proceedings. The agreement relates to a proposed Directive put forward by the Commission, which aims to establish specific protection for children, as they are particularly vulnerable during court proceedings.

The proposals include:

  • Children must be assisted by a lawyer - As children might not be in a position to fully understand the consequences of their actions, they should not be allowed to waive their right to a lawyer.
  • Children should be detained separately from adults - Specific protection measures should exist for children who are deprived of their liberty. It is particularly important to keep detained adults and children apart, to prevent ill-treatment and abuse.
  • Children should not have to bear the cost of certain safeguards, even if found guilty – This includes individual assessment, medical examination or audio-visual recording of interviews.

The proposals also require that children should benefit from being swiftly informed of their legal rights, being assisted by parents (or other appropriate persons), and not being questioned in public hearings.

Since the questioning of a child is potentially risky due to their vulnerability, the Commission proposes that interviews should be filmed only if necessary, and especially if the child is deprived of liberty. The draft Directive also sets minimum standards for detention, including access to rehabilitation measures, with an obligation to take all measures possible to avoid the deprivation of liberty whenever this is in the best interests of the child.

The Directive will not apply to Denmark (which has an opt-out) while the UK and Ireland can decide to join (they have a right to opt-in).

The proposals will now go forward for trilogue discussions between the Council of Ministers, European Parliament and Commission.

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