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Courts and Juveniles

The Child Protection Law has established procedures and principles for the protection of juveniles who come into contact with the justice system as victims, witnesses, or offenders. The CPL also dictates safety measures applied to juvenile offenders, along with the establishment, duties, and capacities of juvenile courts to ensure their rights and well-being. The protective and supportive measures are taken by the Ministry of Family and Social Policies, the Ministry of National Education, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Justice, local municipalities, and state institutions and organizations. This section of the chapter will provide a brief overview of the main actors of the Juvenile Justice System and their missions.

Juvenile judge: The judge of the juvenile court which renders the decisions for the measures that will be taken with regard to juvenile offenders and juveniles that are in need of protection, except for those about whom prosecution procedures have been started.

Juvenile courts: The first juvenile court of law in Turkey was passed in 1979 with the law number 2253 and was valid up until the establishment of CPL in 2005. These courts aim to protect juveniles before and after the commission of an offense by providing sentences of security and/or protective measures in order to integrate juveniles back in their communities. There are two different types of juvenile courts in Turkey. Ordinary courts are moderated by a single judge, and courts for serious crimes, including homicide, sexual assault, and armed robbery, are moderated by a panel of three judges. Both types of juvenile courts may have more than one chamber, if the caseload so requires (UNICEF 2005).

It is preferred to appoint judges specialized in juvenile law who are trained in the fields of child psychology and social services, and who have experience in those fields to juvenile courts. The staff of juvenile courts includes social workers who prepare social inquiry reports (UNICEF 2009).

Juvenile courts have jurisdiction for both criminal and civil cases. Juvenile courts administer the actions filed with regard to juvenile offenders, for crimes falling under the jurisdiction of basic penal courts and penal courts of peace. Courts and juvenile judges have the duty to take the necessary measures specified in Child Protection Law. In addition, juvenile courts are in charge of custody, tutorship, and guardianship (Usta 2012).

Juvenile heavy penal courts: Juvenile heavy penal courts shall have one presiding judge and two members. Juvenile heavy penal courts shall administer suits related to crimes committed by juveniles and falling under the jurisdiction of the heavy penal court (CPL 2005).

Public Prosecutor’s juvenile bureau: A juvenile bureau shall be established at the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. An adequate number of Public prosecutors shall be assigned to this bureau by the Chief Public prosecutor, from among those who have specialized in juvenile law and have a grasp on juvenile psychology (CPL 2005).

Lawyer appointed by the bar association: The right to an attorney is key element of the right to a fair trial. In Turkey, the Bar Association must be advised at the beginning of legal proceedings concerning juveniles suspected or accused of an offense. If the juvenile does not have his/her own attorney, then one will be assigned by the Bar Association (UNICEF 2009).

Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 40 of the Child Protection Law, and Articles 150 and 239 of the Turkish Code of Criminal Procedure regulate the appointment of a legal attorney by the bar association, for those who cannot afford a lawyer. It is mandatory to appoint an attorney for juveniles. However, most of the assigned attorneys are inexperienced, and they are not required to have special training on the relevant laws involving children.

Social workers: Based on articles 33-35 of the CPL, the Ministry of Justice shall appoint an adequate number of social workers to juvenile courts and juvenile heavy penal courts, from among candidates who have completed at least an undergraduate program. Those who have completed graduate programs on child and family problems, juvenile law, and juvenile delinquency shall be given preference. Social workers are required to accompany the juvenile during interrogations. Social workers carry out inquiries about the juvenile assigned to them and are required to submit social inquiry reports for the assigned authorities. Social Inquiry Reports describe the juvenile’s individual characteristics and social environment and are taken into account by the court when assessing a juvenile’s criminal capacity. They are also taken into consideration by the court when making decisions in the best interest of the juveniles (CPL 2005).

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