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Juvenile justice policy

The objective of the Dutch juvenile justice system is to reduce criminal behaviour of young people. The aim is to prevent the first offence and to avoid recurrence. The point of departure of the Dutch system is that quick, effective and early intervention is needed. There is not one single risk factor that leads to criminal behaviour; it is usually an accumulation of causes. Nevertheless, the younger the offender the worse the outlook is for further criminal behaviour. Young offenders not only commit more crimes, but also more serious ones. The responsible Ministry for the policy concerning juvenile justice is the Ministry of Security and Justice. There are different programmes that are being used to reduce crime. Some examples are Jeugd Terecht and the Halt programme.

Jeugd Terecht programme

One of recent policy developments in relation to juvenile justice is the programme ‘justice to young people’ (in Dutch: Jeugd Terecht). The objective of this programme is to prevent first-time offending and to reduce recidivism. Customization, effectiveness and chain cooperation are priorities in this respect. Jeugd Terecht consists of concrete actions that are meant to contribute to a considerable reduction in juvenile crime.

Halt programme

Children in the age of 12 to 18 years who commit a minor crime, can get an alternative punishment. This is the so called Halt-measure. Children until the age of 12 years can be referred by the police to the Youth Care Agency. Youth that are arrested by the police get a choice: either go to the justice department or be referred to Halt. The Halt-measure is executed by the Halt Agency (in Dutch: Bureau Halt) and is allowed to last no longer than 20 hours. The Halt-measure can consist of repairing the inflicted damage, assisting in public services, a learning activity or apologizing for bad behaviour to the aggrieved person(s). Halt can also mediate in making an arrangement for the inflicted damage. When the youth has successfully completed the Halt measure, they will not have a criminal record.

In recent years, a new approach for children until 12 years in the case of light crimes has been set up. In this approach, the police talks with the parents of the children and refers them to the Youth Care Agency. This agency screens them on underlying problems and - if necessary - refers parents and the child to a personalized, tailor made offer. In 2010 this approach is implemented step by step. More information about Dutch youth care you can read in the factsheet.

The Dutch Minister of Justice wants to give the courts the possibility of imposing independent exclusion orders, duty to report orders or contact prohibition orders on persons who cause a nuisance repeatedly individually or as a group. The measure has a maximum duration of two years, and can be effected immediately after the imposition. If the offender does not obey the order, he will be put in detention after all, serving a minimum sentence of three days imprisonment as alternative punishment for each offence. For subsequent offences the duration of the imprisonment as alternative punishment can be extended by order of the court.

Young adults criminal law coming up

In the budget 2012 presentation of the Ministry of Security and Justice in September 2011 it was announced that a special criminal law for young adults wil be set up. In December 2011 Secretary of State of Security and Justice sent a proposal to the Chamber to implement the new law. The law is meant for young people at risk between 15 and 23 years of age. They can be convicted according to juvenile criminal law or to adult criminal law, depending on the circumstances. The young adults criminal law gives the opportunity to tackle social and psychic problems that lead to criminal behaviour, but can also lead to severe punishment in the case that a young adult does not take this opportunity. In the new law the maximum detention period for 16 and 17 years old will be extended from 2 to 4 years. Furthermore the youth probation and after-care service will intensify and young adults that fail their community service, will get a more severe approach.

More information you can read at the website of the Ministry of Security and Justice

Last modified: 03 July 2012.

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Tijne Berg - le ClercqContact

Tijne Berg - le Clercq is a senior advisor at the Netherlands Youth Institute.
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