Despite the panoply of standards providing a well-established framework for modelling juvenile justice, there is a dissonance between the rhetoric of human rights discourse and the reality of juvenile justice interventions.
Following the rapporteur’s proposals (Stefan Schennach, Austria, SOC), the Committee on Social Affairs calls on European governments to implement the relevant standards in order to respect children’s rights and improve juvenile justice practices.
According to the Committee, the minimum age of criminal responsibility should be set at least at 14 years of age, while establishing a range of suitable alternatives to formal prosecution for younger offenders. Exceptions to the minimum age of criminal responsibility should be prohibited even for serious offences, and the detention of juveniles should be used as a measure of last resort and for the shortest possible period of time.
Ionas Nicolaou, Minister of Justice and Public Order of the Republic of Cyprus, explained that the age of criminal responsibility in Cyprus was set at 14 years of age, but that the Republic extended juvenile justice provisions and protections to defendants up to the age of 21, sometimes even 25. He agreed with the Rapporteur that is was crucial to divert juvenile delinquents from the criminal justice system, privileging other measures and solutions whenever possible. Particularly important was not to put children into prison: indeed, Cyprus had one of the smallest number of juvenile offenders in prison worldwide. And when it was necessary to imprison children, it was to be with a view to rehabilitation, not retribution.