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, carried out the fieldwork for this qualitative research in Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Poland, Romania, Spain, and the United Kingdom. In 2012, interviews were held with adults who work with children. 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. Findings from the interviews with practitioners were published 2015 in the report: Child-friendly justice – Perspectives and experiences of professionals on children’s participation in civil and criminal judicial proceedings in 10 EU Member States.
In 2013, a preparatory phase for carrying out research with children included consultations with children, parents and gatekeepers. Then in 2014 and 2015, interviews with 392 children were held to learn from their experiences and perspectives when involved in criminal and civil proceedings as witness/victim, respectively party, with a specific focus on cases of domestic violence, sexual abuse and custody conflicts. The report 'Child-friendly justice – Experiences and perspectives of children' is available on 22 February 2017.