The project looks at the treatment of children in the justice systems of the European Union (EU), which is an important issue of concern for EU institutions and Member States. The research will identify forms of child participation in criminal and civil judicial proceedings, as well as collect promising practices, in 10 EU Member States. The research will mainly be based on interviews with professionals and children involved in such proceedings.
Practices of child participation in justice proceedings vary considerably across EU Member States. There are gaps in relation to clear, consistent standards and guidelines on how and when children should be involved. In 2011, the European Commission highlighted in the EU Agenda for the Rights of the Child that promoting child-friendly justice is at the centre of its actions. Therefore, in close cooperation with the Commission, FRA is engaging in research to examine practices and procedures of child participation in justice proceedings which should conform to the Council of Europe’s guidelines on child-friendly justice.
FRA’s EU-wide network of national focal points, FRANET, is carrying out the fieldwork for this qualitative research in Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Poland, Romania, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Interviews were carried out with adults who work with children in 2012. These included legal professionals such as judges, prosecutors, court staff, legal counsellors, lawyers, and law enforcement officials. Staff of social service providers, NGOs, psychologists and social workers were also interviewed. In 2013 and 2014, interviews with children have been conducted in order to learn from their experiences of being involved in judicial proceedings, as witnesses, victims or party to the proceedings. The focus was on cases of domestic violence, sexual abuse, neglect, and custody conflicts in divorce proceedings.
FRA social scientists and legal experts are carrying out the data analysis. The analysis is being complemented by desk research. The main findings will be presented in a comparative report on child participation in justice proceedings in selected Member States.