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The Procedure

The criminal procedure for juvenile offenders follows the standard criminal procedure for adult offenders (Sugman Stubbs 2008). The Criminal Procedure Act, however, has special provisions to be used when processing juvenile offenders, aimed at reducing the harmful effects of the procedure on the juvenile.

The proceeding starts with an obligatory preliminary phase, the purpose of which is to establish facts connected to a criminal offense, and, particularly, to evaluate the juvenile offender’s maturity, personality, and the circumstances in which the juvenile lives. The judge is obliged to conduct certain acts in order to establish relevant circumstances. In addition to questioning the juvenile, the judge must question the parents or guardians of the juvenile, and other persons who could provide information on these circumstances, who do not have the option to waive testimony on the personality of a juvenile and the conditions in which he/she lives. A report from the Centre for Social Work needs to be obtained as well as expert opinions on the juvenile’s health, mental maturity, and psychological characteristics, when the judges deems it necessary.

The judge may order that the juvenile is sent to a diagnostic center, placed under the supervision of the Centre for Social Work, or placed with another family, if his or her home environment is deemed harmful or when help, protection, or accommodation is needed. The duration of the order may last throughout the proceedings but can also be abrogated at any time. A special appeal to the panel for juvenile offenders at the higher court is allowed against the order of any of the stated measures.

Once all relevant data is gathered, the juvenile judge informs the state prosecutor, who may decide to file charges or use other means to divert proceedings as

Table 19.3. Juvenile offenders registered by the police and sentenced

by the court

Year

Juvenile offenders registered by the police

Juvenile offenders with a court imposed sanction

2004

1.912

570

30 %

2005

1.631

452

28 %

2006

1.550

459

30 %

2007

1.508

411

27 %

2008

1.439

432

30 %

2009

1.525

375

25 %

2010

1.440

304

21 %

2011

1.301

318

24 %

2012

1.200

349

29 %

2013

1.083

368

34 %

2014

1.044

276

26 %

(Source: Statistical Office)

explained later on. The charges may be dismissed by the juvenile judge using the opportunity principle, or referred to mediation, or to a panel for juvenile offenders which decides the case.

In practice, generally less than a third of juvenile cases, reported to the police, end up with a court imposed sanction (See Table 19.3). The reason for the stark difference is the options that the prosecutors and juvenile judges have to dismiss the case because of the expediency principle or to refer it to mediation or other forms of diversion (Filipcic 2006).

The proceeding in front of the judicial panel for juvenile offenders reflects regular adult proceedings, with one major exception: in order to safeguard the juvenile offender’s identity and future, the public is excluded from all hearings and there is no public record on the proceedings.

 
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