The Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development
chose to focus its report entirely on the issue of the treatment
of juvenile delinquency, thus regrettably excluding from its scope
key issues raised in the underlying motions.
The approach of the lead committee, which consists in promoting
a minimalistic approach – advocating “diversion” away from any reaction
of the law-enforcement authorities at all, to the largest extent
possible, and if that is not possible, to minimise any unavoidable
sanctions, is too one-sided. It fails to differentiate sufficiently between
non-violent crime and violent crime and between different age groups,
and neglects the rights of the victims.
When children are irresponsible, they must be acquitted, and
when their responsibility is reduced, their sentences must be reduced
accordingly, by comparison with a sentence handed down to an adult
having committed the same offence. The difficulty lies in determining
the degree of responsibility of a given juvenile offender. This
is a matter for the judge, who must be assisted by competent experts
and properly trained to come to his or her own assessment, in the
light of all the circumstances of the individual case. This is not
a subject-matter that avails itself to political generalisations.
In the view of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights,
the draft resolution thus requires some amendments aimed at somewhat
redressing the balance between the interests of the juvenile delinquents
and their victims and to provide some clarifications from a legal
point of view.