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Article

Access_open Age Limits in Youth Justice

A Comparative and Conceptual Analysis

Journal Erasmus Law Review, Issue 1 2020
Keywords youth justice, age limits, minimum age of criminal responsibility, age of criminal majority, legal comparison
Authors Jantien Leenknecht, Johan Put and Katrijn Veeckmans
AbstractAuthor's information

    In each youth justice system, several age limits exist that indicate what type of reaction can and may be connected to the degree of responsibility that a person can already bear. Civil liability, criminal responsibility and criminal majority are examples of concepts on which age limits are based, but whose definition and impact is not always clear. Especially as far as the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) is concerned, confusion exists in legal doctrine. This is apparent from the fact that international comparison tables often show different MACRs for the same country. Moreover, the international literature often seems to define youth justice systems by means of a lower and upper limit, whereas such a dual distinction is too basic to comprehend the complex multilayer nature of the systems. This contribution therefore maps out and conceptually clarifies the different interpretations and consequences of the several age limits that exist within youth justice systems. To that extent, the age limits of six countries are analysed: Argentina, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Northern Ireland. This legal comparison ultimately leads to a proposal to establish a coherent conceptual framework on age limits in youth justice.


Jantien Leenknecht
Jantien Leenknecht is PhD Fellow of the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) at KU Leuven, Institute of Social Law and Leuven Institute of Criminology.

Johan Put
Johan Put is Full Professor at KU Leuven, Institute of Social Law and Leuven Institute of Criminology.

Katrijn Veeckmans
Katrijn Veeckmans is PhD Fellow at KU Leuven, Institute of Social Law and Leuven Institute of Criminology.
Article

Access_open Characteristics of Young Adults Sentenced with Juvenile Sanctions in the Netherlands

Journal Erasmus Law Review, Issue 1 2020
Keywords young adult offenders, juvenile sanctions for young adults, juvenile criminal law, psychosocial immaturity
Authors Lise J.C. Prop, André M. Van der Laan, Charlotte S. Barendregt e.a.
AbstractAuthor's information

    Since 1 April 2014, young adults aged 18 up to and including 22 years can be sentenced with juvenile sanctions in the Netherlands. This legislation is referred to as ‘adolescent criminal law’ (ACL). An important reason for the special treatment of young adults is their over-representation in crime. The underlying idea of ACL is that some young adult offenders are less mature than others. These young adults may benefit more from pedagogically oriented juvenile sanctions than from the deterrent focus of adult sanctions. Little is known, however, about the characteristics of the young adults sentenced with juvenile sanctions since the implementation of ACL. The aim of this study is to gain insight into the demographic, criminogenic and criminal case characteristics of young adult offenders sentenced with juvenile sanctions in the first year after the implementation of ACL. A cross-sectional study was conducted using a juvenile sanction group and an adult sanction group. Data on 583 criminal cases of young adults, sanctioned from 1 April 2014 up to March 2015, were included. Data were obtained from the Public Prosecution Service, the Dutch Probation Service and Statistics Netherlands. The results showed that characteristics indicating problems across different domains were more prevalent among young adults sentenced with juvenile sanctions. Furthermore, these young adults committed a greater number of serious offences compared with young adults who were sentenced with adult sanctions. The findings of this study provide support for the special treatment of young adult offenders in criminal law as intended by ACL.


Lise J.C. Prop
Research and Documentation Centre (WODC), Ministry of Justice and Security, Den Haag, the Netherlands.

André M. Van der Laan
Research and Documentation Centre (WODC), Ministry of Justice and Security, Den Haag, the Netherlands.

Charlotte S. Barendregt
Health and Youth Care Inspectorate, Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, Utrecht, the Netherlands.

Chijs Van Nieuwenhuizen
GGzE, Centre for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Eindhoven, the Netherlands and Scientific Center for Care & Welfare (Tranzo),Tilburg University, Tilburg, the Netherlands.
Article

Access_open Safeguarding the Dynamic Legal Position of Children: A Matter of Age Limits?

Reflections on the Fundamental Principles and Practical Application of Age Limits in Light of International Children’s Rights Law

Journal Erasmus Law Review, Issue 1 2020
Keywords age limits, dynamic legal position, children’s rights, maturity, evolving capacities
Authors Stephanie Rap, Eva Schmidt and Ton Liefaard
AbstractAuthor's information

    In this article a critical reflection upon age limits applied in the law is provided, in light of the tension that exists in international children’s rights law between the protection of children and the recognition of their evolving autonomy. The main research question that will be addressed is to what extent the use of (certain) age limits is justified under international children’s rights law. The complexity of applying open norms and theoretically underdeveloped concepts as laid down in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, related to the development and evolving capacities of children as rights holders, will be demonstrated. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child struggles to provide comprehensive guidance to states regarding the manner in which the dynamic legal position of children should be applied in practice. The inconsistent application of age limits that govern the involvement of children in judicial procedures provides states leeway in granting children autonomy, potentially leading to the establishment of age limits based on inappropriate – practically, politically or ideologically motivated – grounds.


Stephanie Rap
Stephanie Rap is assistant professor in children’s rights at the Department of Child Law, Leiden Law School, the Netherlands.

Eva Schmidt
Eva Schmidt is PhD candidate at the Department of Child Law, Leiden Law School, the Netherlands.

Ton Liefaard
Ton Liefaard is Vice-Dean of Leiden Law School and holds the UNICEF Chair in Children’s Rights at Leiden University, Leiden Law School, the Netherlands.

Peter Mascini
Erasmus University Rotterdam, Erasmus School of Law. Corresponding author. Sanders building, 7 West, P.O. Box 1738, 3000 DR, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, pmascini@gmail.com.

Wibo van Rossum
Erasmus University Rotterdam, Erasmus School of Law.
Article

Access_open Legal Constraints on the Indeterminate Control of ‘Dangerous’ Sex Offenders in the Community: The Dutch Perspective

Journal Erasmus Law Review, Issue 2 2016
Keywords Dutch penal law, preventive supervision, dangerous offenders, human rights, social rehabilitation
Authors Sanne Struijk and Paul Mevis
AbstractAuthor's information

    In the Netherlands, the legal possibilities for post-custodial supervision have been extended considerably in recent years. A currently passed law aims to further increase these possibilities specifically for dangerous (sex) offenders. This law consists of three separate parts that may all result in life-long supervision. In the first two parts, the supervision is embedded in the conditional release after either a prison sentence or the safety measure ‘ter beschikking stelling’ (TBS). This paper focuses on the third part of the law, which introduces an independent supervisory safety measure as a preventive continuation of both a prison sentence and the TBS measure. Inevitably, this new independent sanction raises questions about legitimacy and necessity, on which this paper reflects from a human rights perspective. Against the background of the existing Dutch penal law system, the content of the law is thoroughly assessed in view of the legal framework of the Council of Europe and the legal principles of proportionality and less restrictive means. In the end, we conclude that the supervisory safety measure is not legitimate nor necessary (yet). Apart from the current lack of (empirical evidence of) necessity, we state that there is a real possibility of an infringement of Article 5(4) ECHR and Article 7 ECHR, a lack of legitimising supervision ‘gaps’ in the existing penal law system, and finally a lack of clear legal criteria. Regardless of the potential severity of violent (sex) offenses, to simply justify this supervisory safety measure on the basis of ‘better safe than sorry’ is not enough.


Sanne Struijk
Sanne Struijk, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor at the Erasmus School of Law.

Paul Mevis
Paul Mevis is a Professor at the Erasmus School of Law.
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