Treatment of children in criminal proceedings does not considerably differ from that of adults

1/16/2003 | 12:00 AM

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TALLINN, 16 January 2003 - The SAO examined the special treatment of minors in criminal proceedings. The SAO discovered that despite the desire of persons conducting proceedings to conduct criminal proceedings of minors differently from that of adults, there is no criminal procedure at present that would fully take into account a child’s personal and social peculiarities and needs. Rather, the children in criminal proceedings are treated like "small" adults.

The SAO recommended the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Internal Affairs to fight for faster criminal proceedings for children, and the requirement that the persons conducting proceedings are appropriate trained specialists. In addition, more background information should be collected about children in criminal proceedings in order to impose a more effective punishment, special rules should be observed upon detention of minors, and the children should be protected form the public.

One aim of the criminal procedure and punishment is to facilitate future law-abiding behaviour of offenders. The greatest probability to achieve this aim lies with minor offenders because they are more open to influence, their personalities having not been fully developed. A fast and fair criminal procedure where the child is treated with respect is an important prerequisite to prevent him or her from committing new crimes.

The SAO conducted a performance audit to assess the efforts made by the parties in the criminal proceedings to influence minors (aged 13 to 18) in the criminal proceedings as appropriate, i.e., to prevent them from committing new crimes.

On the basis of the examples studied by the SAO, the audit revealed that criminal proceedings of minors last 29 % longer than average ones. As a rule, there are no police officers, prosecutors, and judges who specialise in minors’ cases. Children are not guaranteed the availability of a support person (social worker or such) who would support the child and take care that the child’s rights and minimum needs would be ensured. Besides, there are no possibilities of sending the child to a shelter of more lenient conditions instead of the place for preliminary confinement.

The analysis of criminal files showed that, as a rule, the sole source of information on the child’s background is an assessment from school, furthermore, 26 % of the analysed criminal files did not include any information on the social background and character of the child. Although such information is an important prerequisite for imposing an effective punishment, many chairmen of courts had to admit the insufficiency of such information in criminal files.

According to the SAO, there is no guarantee that information about an accused or suspected minor does not reach persons who may misuse the information to the detriment of the minor. Nor is all done to ensure that as few persons as possible learn about the minor’s misdemeanours. Exposure of an accused or suspected or convicted minor in the media has not been legally regulated.

As one of the possibilities of increasing the speed and quality of criminal proceedings of minors, the SAO recommended the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Internal Affairs develop a situation through administrative changes where criminal proceedings of minors are given priority. The other change should be that only special investigators and prosecutors are appointed to criminal matters of minors.

The SAO also recommended to prepare legislative amendments to prevent minors to be thoughtlessly sent to preliminary conviction places, to ensure identification of a child’s social and personal peculiarities and needs before the judgement is made, and to prohibit exhibiting the suspected and accused minors in covering the criminal proceedings in the media.


Sven Soiver
Press Representative of State Audit Office
Telephone: (372) 640 0787
GSM: (372) 53 414464
E-mail: Sven.Soiver@riigikontroll.ee

  • Posted: 1/16/2003 12:00 AM
  • Last Update: 10/2/2015 6:26 PM
  • Last Review: 10/2/2015 6:26 PM

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