Child-Friendly Justice: turning law into reality
Children, i.e. people between 0 and 18 years old, have human rights. This is undisputed and the Convention of the Rights of the Child is a sufficient indication of this fact. What remains problematic is what they can do with their rights when they get in trouble or when legal proceedings are started that deal with their rights and interests. The Council of Europe has nominated justice for children as one of its key priorities and subsequently drafted guidelines on child friendly justice. These guidelines put forward the notion of justice proceedings, in the broadest sense, being adapted to cater for the needs of children and young people. As rights holders, they too should be able to turn to the justice system to have their rights protected and to have that done so in a child friendly way, taking into consideration their level of understanding, their specific vulnerabilities, their position and their best interest(s).
These guidelines serve as a tool, aiding the daily work of judges, lawyers, police officers, social workers and other relevant professions. Their true impact will only be felt once they have been made widely available to all concerned professionals as well as to children and young people themselves. This way, the justice system can become more accessible and can better uphold children’s rights.