Every year, many children are involved in judicial proceedings. Children are not adults: they have their own needs and rights, which are all the more important when they face justice as suspects or perpetrators.
The lawyer plays a major role in the path of the child facing justice, in safeguarding his or her rights and well-being. The framework in which the lawyer exercises his or her profession, as well as the access to his or her advice for the child and the assistance he or she offers to the child, therefore deserve special attention.
Unfortunately, significant obstacles remain, including the following:
– The lack of information received by these children (particularly with regard to procedures);
– The lack of adequate training for lawyers;
– The funding and functioning of legal aid for these children;
– Access to legal aid and therefore to a lawyer for these children;
– The possibility for children in some jurisdictions to waive their right to a lawyer without understanding the consequences of this decision;
– The availability of lawyers working in cases involving minors.
On the basis of these observations and with the aim of enabling the implementation of the rights of children in conflict with the law, particularly their procedural rights as set out in European Directive 2016/800, several projects have been or are being carried out across Europe.
“ Justice should be children’s friend. It should not walk in front of them, as they may not follow. It should not walk behind children, as they should not be burdened with the responsibility to lead. It shouldjust walk beside them and be their friend.”
Maud de Boer-Buquicchio,
Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe from 2002 to 2012
1 – Funded by the European Commission and coordinated by DCI-Belgium, the project My lawyer, My rights was implemented from 2016 to 2018. It aimed to promote an effective implementation of the European directives concerning the procedural rights of children suspected or accused in criminal proceedings, in particular the right of the child in conflict with the law to be assisted by a specialized lawyer. It also aims to strengthen the capacity of children’s lawyers. This is done by providing them with practical tools.
2 – Funded by the European Union Justice Programme and coordinated by the Law Institute of Lithuania, the LA-Child project runs from 2020 to 2021. It also aims to strengthen the procedural rights of children in conflict with the law. The project focuses on legal aid systems and will, among other things, identify and promote inspiring practices in this area.