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ALTERNATIVE SANCTIONS FOR JUVENILES: HOME CONFINEMENT, RESTORATIVE JUSTICE, RESTITUTION, ETC.

In spite of political demands for more punitive consequences it may still be said that the general tradition in Denmark is that pure imprisonment is absolutely a last resort for juveniles.

It has been noted that there exists no such thing in Denmark as a specific juvenile justice system. What the future will bring is hard to say right now. There are strong forces against and for the introduction of a juvenile court and more specific responses to juvenile crime. But there already exists a number of legal ways for the social services to intervene in the development of a juvenile if needed. These interventions include mentors, family support in the form of full-time or part-time foster family or institutional residency without consent. Interventions from the welfare system are not a penalty and the professional focus should not be punitive but supportive and directed at the best interest of the child.

In this sense there is an overlap between social welfare and the penal system. Until the age of 15 the initiative belongs to and rests with the social welfare. After the age of 15 a strong argument for a withdrawal of the charge may be that initiatives by the social welfare system have been exhausted. Exactly the same initiatives that the social welfare system might have taken already may now be conditions for a withdrawal of charges or—if the crime is more serious—a conditional sentence. Home-confinement after 8 p.m. may for instance very well be a condition in a youth contract without ever having been understood as a criminal measure. Very often a withdrawal of charges or a conditional sentence for a juvenile ends up with the words “it is a condition that_(name of juvenile) follows the instructions given by the social welfare system.”

Before the age of 15 only serious crimes are noted in the register of investigation but after the age of 15 all court decisions are noted as well in the aforementioned as in the criminal record of the individual. Notations in the criminal record are understood as having much negative impact for a young person for instance when applying for a job, thus its use is meant to be restricted.

The only form of Restorative Justice in Denmark is Victim offender mediation, which is organized by the police. As mentioned above minors are not excluded from VOM but the main group is criminally responsible individuals and their victims (Lappi-Seppala and Storgaard 2015). VOM is not and cannot be used as an instrument for diversion. There will always be a criminal court case (when the offender is criminally liable) either before or after the mediation. If the court case follows after a successful VOM this may be used as argument for a marginally lower sentence (the preparatory works for VOM and Criminal Law, § 82).

 
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