HUNGARY: Child-friendly justice - From the Ombudsman’s Perspective

In Hungary today, approximately 200 000 children are registered as at risk and thousands of
children are taken into child protection care. Tens of thousands of children and juveniles are
in the criminal justice system and about 6000 children/year become victim of a violent crime.
These are large numbers suggesting that these children (and their families) have already
come into contact with the authorities, often with the judiciary - but how criminal, civil and
administrative procedures and institutions can be adapted to the special situation, needs and
terminology of children? How professionals in the justice system are prepared to deal with
child victims, offenders, witnesses or children of parents in divorce. Under what conditions
and how are children heard or interrogated, what awaits them at a police station, juvenile
correctional center or in a penitentiary institution? How and from whom they may seek help
and assistance in a closed institution if they have problems with one of the inmates or nurses
or if they simply need information or legal and other type of advice? What are the
perspectives of a young person who committed a fault due to his/her vulnerable situation
which was sanctioned by the state exclusively/mostly with criminal law instruments?
Considering the innumerable relevant questions, choosing this topic was quite reasonable,
although it should be noted that children intend to avoid any embarrassing administrative
procedure. In Hungary thousands of children get in contact with the authorities in some way:
whether as criminal offenders, victims or witnesses of a crime or as unaccompanied foreign
minors caught in our country. When speaking about a particulary vulnerable individual with
special needs like a child, these situations are often very difficult to manage under the current
laws and procedures, and even if the written law provides adequate protection putting into
practice these guarantees often meets obstacles.
In 2012, the Ombudsman, based on the Council of Europe’s Guidelines on Child-friendly
Justice, intended to explore the gaps between law and practice by conducting several
inquiries with voluminous reports on the fulfillment of international obligations concerning
child-friendly justice; victim protection with special emphasis on children; general evaluation
of youth justice system (criminal, civil and administrative procedures) from the aspect of
children’s rights; mediation and other forms of restorative justice in the national practice;
child-focused training of people working in the child protection system or in the justice
system; situation of unaccompanied minors and on-the-spot visits to penitentiary institutions
for juvenile offenders.
3 December 2012, Budapest
Head of the Project



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