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The Transition Towards Child-Friendly Communication in the Justice System: ‘And You, Are You Listening to Me?’

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 November 2022

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Summary

‘Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for

children to be always and forever explaining things to them …’.

INTRODUCTION

When children face the judicial system as witnesses, victims, suspects, or parties to the proceedings, they often encounter the different professionals in this system for the first time. No matter the kind of proceedings, whether civil, criminal, or administrative, the child must invariably repeat their side of the story, understand the role of the professionals, and try to situate themselves within the judicial system. This requires that they be provided with adequate information, that they understand this information, and that they are able to make themselves understood. Furthermore, children must be certain that their opinions will be taken into account while participating in the proceedings, and that their opinions and concerns will have an impact on the decision being made on their behalf. How can one avoid becoming overwhelmed when faced with such complexity?

A child-friendly justice system is on the side of children, offering help provided by competent professionals.

In order to provide children with guidance, the professionals involved must inform them in a language that is adapted to them, make sure they have understood their situation, their rights, their journey through the justice system, and the role of each actor involved in their journey. Th e professionals must also give them support and answer all their questions, especially in situations as delicate as those encountered in the pre-trial phases, in court, or following the trial. Children will in this way truly be able to have access to justice and benefit from informed and meaningful participation throughout the proceedings, in accordance with Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

This contribution addresses the professionals working with children who find themselves in the justice system. These professionals include police officers (or members of another law enforcement authority), interpreters, social workers, lawyers or statutory representatives, prosecutors, judges, educators, psychologists, psychiatrists, members of medical staff , probation officers, child protection officers, staff members of the asylum and immigration services, or any other person who interacts with children in the justice system.

Type
Chapter
Information
Children's Access to Justice
A Critical Assessment
, pp. 183 - 196
Publisher: Intersentia
Print publication year: 2022

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