Children and young people have to deal with Justice System in a lot of different situations: it can be inside Civil Justice, for separations, divorces, adoptions; in Administrative Justice, for immigration or nationality issues; in Criminal Justice for being witness, victim or perpetuator of a crime. The Justice System though it’s not a friendly world: it’s full of adults working in places and contexts they know very well, but that are not necessarily understandable for the kids involved. The Guidelines of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on Child-Friendly Justice have been created in 2010, after a consultation process with more than 3.800 children throughout Europe, for this main purpose: improving the Justice System and adapting it to the specific needs of children.
The standards reported in the Guidelines aim at adapt the Justice System to the needs of children and young people. This can be a guarantee to the effective respect and implementation of Children and Youths Rights.

The main principles of a Child-Friendly Approach in Justice are:

  • Information and acknowledgment in the access of Justice Proceedings;
  • Assistance and legal representation;
  • Avoid unnecessary delays;
  • Right to private and family life;
  • Right to be heard;
  • Right to have a Child-Friendly environment, language and proceeding;
  • Right to integrity and dignity.

Here is the webpage of the European Council in which you can find all the information about Child-Friendly Justice Guidelines. http://www.coe.int/en/web/children/child-friendly-justice

For Breaking the Circle Project, the Guidelines are not a conclusion of a path, but the starting point of a stable process of dialogue with different stakeholders, including – of course – children and youths. The Guidelines should be the milestone of a continuous and cyclical process based on recommending, verifying and redirecting. There should be a constant relationship with local context aimed at assessing the functioning of the system and evaluating the coherence between prescriptions and reality. Only with a frequent monitoring and systematic reporting we can ensure a positive impact of the Guidelines in the reform of the European Justice system.
Moreover, the Guidelines seem to be designed and written for the professionals of the justice system. It would be very useful to think about information and communication tools focused on other target groups, such as children and families. It’s not just a matter of translating and adapting the existent document, it’s a matter of creating something new and specific.
Breaking the Circle Active-Learning Toolkit will be useful in all these meanings: discovering and learning, centering on the values of diversity, exchange and collaboration; transform the learning into concrete action, to raise the level of awareness and of protection of Child Rights in the proceedings, for all European Countries.

This publication has been produced with the financial support of the Pilot project “Raising awareness of children to be aware of their rights in judicial procedures” of the European Union. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of Città Metropolitana of Milan and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Commission.