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AGE OF MAJORITY

Generally, in the Slovenian system children reach the age of majority at 18 years of age but are granted partial independence at 15. Once aged 15, the child is allowed to use their own earnings, enter into legal contracts (with parental consent if they may have significant impact on their future), enter into a work contract, dispose of their copyrights, file law suits, or write their own will.

After the age of 15, a child may also get married or attest to the paternity of a child, by which he or she becomes emancipated. In order to do so, the Centre for Social Work (acting as a child protection service) needs to give its approval, conditioned on the child’s mental and physical ability to live independently.

Criminal Responsibility of Children

With regard to criminal responsibility there are several categories into which children are divided and according to which their legal status differs.

  • - Children (under the age of 14): are not criminally responsible, in case a criminal offense is committed, social services (Centre for Social Work) are alerted and get involved with the child and their family
  • - Younger minors (aged 14-16): are criminally responsible, but may only be sentenced with educational measures
  • - Older minors (aged 16-18): are criminally responsible and may be sentenced with all sanctions available for juvenile offenders, including juvenile imprisonment and fines
  • - Young adults II (committed the criminal offense as adults, but have not reached the age of 21 by the end of the trial): criminally responsible and typically sentenced as adults, but given special circumstances the court may decide to sentence them as juveniles and use educational measures

The age of criminal responsibility is set at 14 years of age and has remained unchanged since the mid-twentieth century. The reasoning behind the formal age requirement is that at that age children are able to understand the meaning of their conduct. Children under the age of 14, who commit a criminal offense, may only be dealt with by Centers for Social Work, notwithstanding the severity of the committed offense and notwithstanding their real maturity. Thus, the limitation is determined by the chronological age and the courts may not change it in individual cases (Filipcic 2006).

The analyses of some cases in recent years when children under the age of 14 (allegedly) committed severe criminal offenses brought up the issue of the adequacy of such a regulation. It was found that the procedural protection of children treated by Centers for Social Work are not adequate, which is all the more worrisome, considering that they have the authority to commit children to a juvenile institution, essentially amounting to one of the most severe institutional educational measures that courts may impose after a criminal proceeding. However, these findings did not propel serious propositions for lowering the age of criminal responsibility, but rather reopened consideration about introducing specialized “family courts.” Establishing such courts would reduce the competencies of the Centers for Social Work and redefine their role in the system. However, the specific procedure, powers, and systemic placing of such courts have not yet been determined and it is unlikely they will be established in the near future.

On the other end of the spectrum, even though the legal options exist, young adults are not often sentenced with educational measures, making the last of the presented group more of a theoretical possibility than practical option (Filipcic 2010a).

 
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