Home Law International Handbook of Juvenile Justice
THE LEGAL STATUS OF JUVENILES
In Austria juveniles, who come in conflict with criminal law, have a “special” legal status, because the reactions possible under Austrian criminal law to cases of juvenile and young adult delinquency behaviour are covered by the so-called Juvenile Court Act (Jugendgerichtsgesetz 1988—JGG), which is adapted to the needs of young offenders and take the difficulties associated with the adjustment to adulthood into account.
This Federal Act contains substantive and procedural regulations, including regulations on the enforcement of imprisonment. The focus of the Juvenile Court Act is decriminalization (Jesionek and Edwards 2010; Bogensberger 1992). Emphasis has been put on special deterrence (Spezialpravention), as opposed to general deterrence (Generalpravention), which can be taken into consideration only in exceptional cases, and on resocialization of the young offender.
Therefore, the conventional punishments, both fines and imprisonment, should only be used as last resort when juvenile delinquency is involved. To achieve this aim, the substantive rules of the Juvenile Court Act provide a wider range of possibilities to sanction the offence. The potential for non-intervention and diversion was expanded significantly and efforts were made to replace traditional convictions and sentences imposed by a criminal court. The implementation of diversionary measures was based on a successful practical experiment at some courts and offices of prosecution (Jesionek 2013). In addition, a new form of immunity from punishment was introduced for misdemeanours committed by the youngest. For cases in which conventional criminal penalties prove unavoidable, legislation made sentencing more flexible by the removal of minimum sentences.
The aim of the procedural rules in the Juvenile Court Act is to support und protect the juvenile during the proceeding in a better way, because of the young age the suspects and accused are unaware of the judicial consequences of their actions. Special regulations with regard to custody were introduced. Release of information pertaining to criminal records was restricted to avoid the stigmatization of offenders as much as possible.
Moreover the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure are applicable if the Juvenile Court Act does not provide specific rules.
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