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Europe faces the challenge that judicial systems are still insufficiently adapted to the specific vulnerabilities and needs of children. Children can be involved in judicial proceedings in various settings, either directly as a defendant, victim or witness or indirectly when judicial decisions may have a considerable impact on their lives such as in divorce or custody proceedings. However, their involvement often lacks a child rights based approach and response from judicial and other actors.

Making the justice system more child-friendly in Europe is a key action under the EU Agenda.  It is an area of high practical relevance where the EU has, under the Treaties, competences to turn the rights of the child into reality by means of various instruments, such as EU legislation and support measures for Member States.

European Commission actions to achieve and promote child-friendly justice include:

  • adopting a proposal for a directive on victims' rights, raising the level of protection of vulnerable victims, including children (adopted on 18 May 2011)  Choose translations of the previous link  and resulting Directive 2012/29/EUpdf;
  • tabling a proposal for a directive on special safeguards for children suspected or accused in criminal proceedings Choose translations of the previous link ;
  • promoting the use of the Council of Europe Guidelines of 17 November 2010 on child-friendly justice and taking them into account in future legal instruments in the field of civil and criminal justice;
  • supporting and encouraging the development of training activities for judges and other professionals at European level regarding the optimal participation of children in judicial systems;
  • gathering data on children's involvement in judicial proceedings.

Study to collect data on children's involvement in criminal, civil and administrative judicial proceedings

The study collects existing data on children's involvement in criminal, civil and administrative judicial proceedings for the years 2008-2010 (and 2011 where available) for all 28 EU Member States in order to provide a statistical overview of children's involvement in judicial proceedings in the EU.  As well as gathering data, the study provides a contextual narrative overview per Member State describing the legal and policy situation as at 1 June 2012 (and summarised for the EU as a whole) with regard to children's involvement in judicial proceedings.  The overview describes when and how children are involved before, during and after judicial proceedings and aims to ensure that data can be interpreted correctly. The results for civil and administrative judicial proceedings will be published at the end of 2014. 

Phase 1: Children's involvement in criminal judicial proceedings

 Background documents

 General comments of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on: