From the 25th to the 27th of January, representatives of juvenile justice organisations across Europe gathered in Brussels for a training event organised by the International Juvenile Justice Observatory as part of the ‘Improving Juvenile Justice Systems in Europe’ project. The aim of the event, which was held in the Parliament of the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, was to train trainers, who will then deliver national training sessions in their own countries to professionals involved in the juvenile justice process.
As trainers, national counterparts will have two main supporting materials: a toolkit and a manual, which will provide trainees with the necessary skills to communicate in a child-friendly manner and better act with children in conflict with the law during their professional tasks. These supporting resources, which have been put together by Professor Ton Liefaard and Dr. Stephanie Rap from the University of Leiden, present and discuss the core rights of children, the key concepts of juvenile justice systems, the value of the international and European children’s rights instruments, and their place in judicial proceedings.
They also provide better ways of communicating and listening to children, and exercises that can be used in the national trainings. Participants of the training event engaged in interactive activities in order to improve their own communication skills, their understanding of family relations and to decide what key messages they will deliver in their own trainings
Other supporting materials which were brought forward during the training event were three videos prepared by Include Youth in Northern Ireland, in which juveniles who have been in contact with the juvenile justice system explained their experience with police, care workers, and judges, and they also expressed their opinion on alternatives to detention.
The training session is part of the ‘Improving Juvenile justice Systems in Europe’ project, led by the IJJO and co-funded by the Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Programme of the European Union. The project’s main objective is to define and implement training to improve European Union youth justice systems and to understand where they can be made more efficient and more child-friendly. The project’s other partners are the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights (Vienna, Austria), Hope for Children - UNCR Policy Centre (Cyprus), Rubikon Centrum (Czech Republic), Association Diagrama (France), the Greek Ministry of Justice (Greece), Istituto Don Calabria (Italy), Providus Center (Latvia), the Portuguese Ministry of Justice (Portugal), Fundación Diagrama (Spain), Include Youth (N.I., United Kingdom), the Finish Forum for Mediation (Finland) and The University of Cork (Ireland).
Cédric Foussard, IJJO director of International Affairs, emphasised at the start of the event that the EU Directive on Procedural Safeguards for Children Suspected or Accused in Criminal Proceedings, that is going to come into force in 2016, gives the project a lot of momentum. Representatives from the project’s partner institutions, as well as other juvenile justice organisations across Europe, all gave examples on how juvenile justice could be improved in their countries, the biggest existing problems when it comes to the treatment of the children, and the difficulties they encounter when trying to improve juvenile justice systems, such as unwillingness by professionals to change existing practices, lack of understanding of the rules in place or conflicting interests between the parties involved.
The International Juvenile Justice Observatory also announced that there would be an online course that anyone could sign up for, which aimed for participants to gain a better understanding on juvenile justice and learn about good practices that are already in place in Europe.
The next steps will be translating the manual into every language which will be needed for the training, and the organisation of two one-day training sessions in all partners’ countries in the first half of 2016. The target audience for the training will be judges, police officers, care workers, lawyers and state prosecutors, amongst others. With this training, the International Juvenile Justice Observatory aims to start a multiplier effect, and lead to a change of ideology and practices across Europe when it comes to juvenile justice. The sustainability of the project will be emphasised by the creation of national juvenile justice coalitions in each partner’s country, with the aim of pursuing the trainings and lobbying for improvements in the juvenile justice systems.
We would like to thank the experts that shared their knowledge with us during this event:
- Maria José Bernuz, Faculty of Law of Zaragoza (Spain).
- Florence Brion, Criminologist, General Delegate on Children´s Rights, Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles (Belgium).
- Avril Calder, President of the International Association of Youth and Family Judges and Magistrates (UK).
- Els Dumortier, Crime and society Research, Vrije Universiteit of Brussels (Belgium).
- Annelies Hendriks, psychologist, consultant in mediation and psychology (The Netherlands).
- Ursula Kilkelly, University College of Cork (Ireland).
- Shady Mirza, consultant on child pedagogy (The Netherlands).
- Adrianne van Rheenen, behavioral expert and child counsellor (The Netherlands).
- Ursina Weidkuhn, International Consultant on Juvenile Justice (Switzerland).