Home Law International Handbook of Juvenile Justice
Beside alternative sanctions that would follow the entire procedure other ways of bringing in the “alternative” into juvenile justice have been sought in the past decades. As mentioned earlier, there has been no research into the possible ways police officers divert juveniles from the criminal justice system, though this is likely to have been occurring. On the other hand, there have been extensive normative and practical changes in the role the prosecution plays in diverting juveniles from the formal system.
The state prosecutor may, with the consent of the accused and the injured party, decide to refer the case to one of two forms of alternative diversionary procedures: mediation or the deferment of prosecution. The main criterion for the prosecutor to decide on is the gravity of the offense, yet other factors may be important as well. The only formal limit to the prosecutor’s discretion is the nature of the offense: juvenile offenders accused of crimes punishable by more than 5 years of imprisonment cannot be diverted from the regular procedure. Originally the limit was set uniformly for adult and juvenile offenders at offenses punishable by 3 years imprisonment, but prosecutors themselves pushed for normative changes in favor of more discretion with regard to juveniles (Filipcic 2010b).
Data for 2014 show that prosecutors dismissed 54 % of all cases, among which 48 % for reasons of utility and minor importance of the offense, and 12 % for the alternative options of mediation and deferment of prosecution. This is a significant drop from 2002, when the latter group of reasons comprised about 30 % of all dismissals (Office of the State Prosecutor General). Again, some of the reasons for such a development may be budget-related. As the prosecution’s budged diminished due to the financial crisis, money for alternative procedures, and especially mediation, has become virtually nonexistent thus disabling prosecutors from viably using all the alternative options.
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