NICOSIA Juvenile delinquency is rising, said Leda Koursoumba, Commissioner for Children’s Rights in Cyprus, noting that there should be juvenile courts to handle such cases.
She also said that the state should address the reasons that led children to such behaviour.
Addressing the European Network of Ombudspersons for Children (ENOC) 16th annual conference, taking place today and tomorrow, she said that the conference will examine issues which the 42 European independent children’s rights institutions have very high on their respective national agendas, in the framework of the increasing number of international and regional human rights instruments promoting a child-friendly justice system.
She also said that the conference is an event under the auspices of the Cyprus Presidency of the Council of the EU and the theme falls within the framework of the EU Strategy for Children, as well within the current EU presidency priorities.
In her speech, Koursoumba pointed out that young offenders are still children with rights, requiring help and guidance.
Today, more than ever, she added, a number of factors, such as poor parenting, neglect, deprivation, abuse, misfortune and social exclusion, make it more likely that a child will first engage in anti-social behaviour and in the absence of prompt and effective intervention measures will end up in delinquent behaviour.
Asked about the legislation in Cyprus, Koursoumba said there is a very big gap, noting that juvenile delinquency is on the rise on the island as a result of the economic crisis as well as other factors. Children are more neglected by parents who are very stressed by the crisis, she noted. At the same time, she added, there is no legal regulation of the issue, while the House Legal Affairs has been discussing proposals she made two years ago, to introduce new legislation.
Koursoumba said that when a child exhibits anti-social behaviour, preventative measures should be in place and if this behaviour reaches the stage of delinquency, there should be measures to intervene.
If everything has been used without result, then the delinquent juvenile should appear before juvenile courts, which must be children friendly and judges should be specially trained to handle children’s issues, she said.
Renate Winter, Former Chair of the International Association of Youth and Family Courts Judges and Magistrates, said that “bringing a child into contact with the criminal justice system is an extremely difficult issue. Decisions have to be made that will affect that child’s future”, adding that “the first issue is whether it is even necessary or wise to bring a child before a justice system”.
Winter said that in her opinion, “it is necessary to look first at ways to prevent children coming before a justice system before thinking about solutions on how to deal with them when they are already involved in it”.
Professor Kirsten Sandberg, Member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, called on participants to encourage their governments to raise the criminal age and treat persons below 18 differently, using a separate system.
She also called on governments to train professionals to deal with below 18s, avoid detention and improve conditions in detention, stop violence and ensure legal safeguards. (CNA)