EUROPE: Child participation in justice proceedings

The Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union (FRA) is currently working on a qualitative research project on child participation in justice proceedings. 

FRA in brief

The FRA is an advisory body of the European Union (EU). It was established in 2007 by the EU and is based in Vienna, Austria.  The FRA helps to ensure that the fundamental rights of people living in the EU are protected. It does this by collecting evidence on the situation of fundamental rights across the EU and using this evidence to provide advice on how to improve the situation. The FRA also informs people about their fundamental rights. In doing so, it helps to make fundamental rights a reality for everyone in the EU.

About the project

One of the projects the FRA has initiated relates to child-friendly justice. The involvement of children in justice procedures is an important topic for European Institutions and for Member States. International and European standards advocate for active participation of children, however the legislation and practices at national level differ widely.  

The aim of this research project is to identify practices and procedures of child participation in criminal (as victims or witnesses) and civil justice proceedings in a selection of European Member States, and to assess how the Council of Europe Guidelines on child-friendly justice are applied. We are particularly interested in court hearings, their extent, quality, impact and good practices. The information collected through the fieldwork will be used as background material for a comparative analysis by the FRA. The research output will serve to inform policy makers and further advise Member States on good practices.

Issues

The research project will cover the following issues

  • non-discrimination
  • the right to information
  • the right to be heard
  • protection and safety
  • child friendly environment and language
  • training of professionals and multidisciplinary approaches
  • access to child-friendly justice proceedings, and
  • overall assessment of the child's best interest.

We will particularly focus on issues of domestic violence, sexual abuse and custody and visiting rights within divorce procedures.

The research this year will be built upon interviews and focus group discussions with professionals (judges, psychologists, prosecutors, social workers, etc.), while in 2013, it is envisaged that children will be interviewed about their own experiences with the justice system.

Countries

The countries covered by the research are: Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Poland, Romania, Spain, the United Kingdom and the EU acceding country Croatia. These countries have been selected for a combination of reasons such as available resources, different legal systems, laws and practices,  as well as the geographical and cultural diversity.

For further information on this project, visit: http://fra.europa.eu/fraWebsite/research/projects/proj_childrenandjustice_en.htm 

pdf: http://fra.europa.eu/fraWebsite/research/projects/proj_childrenandjustic...

Countries