High Time for Changing the Adult Time for Adult Crime Mentality
Posted by Nchapidze at June 16th, 2010
“When you teach someone to swim, you don`t just throw them in the deep end and hope they do great”
- Abby Anderson
Executive director, Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance, the USA
The European Court of Human Rights has considered the age of criminal responsibility and the right to a fair trial in the case of T V vs. United Kingdom (See T and V vs. UK Application no. 24724/94 – http://www.echr.coe.int/echr/) involving an eleven year old boy charged with murder of a two year old. The court held that the formality and ritual of the adult court was incomprehensible and intimidating for a child and that the right to fair trail had been violated, even though the boy was represented by skilled and experienced lawyers. In the light of the lack of juvenile courts in Georgia, and the lack of specialized juvenile lawyers and judges, much the same criticism could be leveled at the Georgian system, and any challenge to the European Court would have a good chance of success.
Georgia became a member of the UN Treaty Convention on the Child`s Rights on 2 June, 1994. The country reports were submitted to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in 1998 and in 2003. The Committee published comments on the second report and expressed deep regret that Georgia had not considered the UN recommendations on the previous report and the Juvenile Justice was executed with the bad practice against the International Standards and with the violations of the children`s rights (http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/CRC.C.15.Add.222.En?OpenDocument).
In 2007 the amendments, made in the Criminal Code of Georgia which reduced the age of criminal responsibility from 14 to 12, caused considerable concerns in the light of the failure to implement the Conventions provisions. After the regrets declared by the UNCRC and national and international human rights organizations, this amendment is currently on moratorium and the Parliament of Georgia is discussing about restoring the age of criminal responsibility again to 14.
Compared with the Western Europe, Georgia has a very low number of juvenile prosecutions. However, it does have a high rate of imprisonment for juveniles as shown (http://www.mcla.gov.ge).
The comparable figure for England and Wales (which has one of the highest rates of imprisonment in the Western Europe) is approximately 9%. In England, the maximum length of sentence for a juvenile is two years (of which one year is spent in the community under supervision), unless the juvenile has committed a very serious offence against the person, such as murder.
The minimum sentence for children placed at the Juvenile Correctional Center is six months, but very small number of the children is given a minimum sentence. Because the sentence of imprisonment given to children is generally three years or more, it was estimated that about 60% of the children will move into adult prisons.
At present the current system of juvenile justice in Georgia which is largely still the system implemented under Soviet rule provides too little discretion, flexibility and alternatives to criminalization to meet human rights standards. Children are tried in adult courts under the same procedure and conditions as applying to adult offenders. The Criminal Code of Georgia provides the judge with a range of possible non-custodial sanctions when sentencing, but in practice, the options are few, and there are an inadequate range of alternatives to detention (www.childrenslegalcentre.com/International+programmes/…/JuvenileJustice)
The urgency of reform of the existing legislation and the overall system and practice of the juvenile justice is on the face. The children should not receive “adult time for adult crime” but they should “be treated in a manner consistent with the promotion of the child’s sense of dignity and worth, which reinforces the child’s respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of others and which takes into account the child’s age and the desirability of promoting the child’s reintegration and the child’s assuming a constructive role in society” (Art. 40 of the UN Convention on the Child`s Rights).
The mentioned problem of the treatment of child offenders as adult criminals in justice system is common for many UN Member States. Although, there have been major advances in the understanding of adolescent offending in many of the States, but with few exceptions, these understandings have not yet been translated into legislations.
- Are there any exceptions when the existing mentality of “Adult time for adult crime” is justifiable to exercise?
- How is it in other countries?
- To change this mentality is a matter of policy and when the governments are doing nothing, can NGOs and independent human rights defenders assist the process of reformation and push the government to changes?
- How important is international cooperation and share of experiences for changing the “adult time for adult crime” mentality?