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Tracking children in their best interests: electronic monitoring in three European juvenile justice systems

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - TCBI (Tracking children in their best interests: electronic monitoring in three European juvenile justice systems)

Période du rapport: 2018-07-01 au 2020-06-30

The use of electronic monitoring (EM) in European criminal justice systems is now widespread and continues to grow. Although there is a growing body of research on the use of EM with adults, very little known about its use with children and young adults. This two year comparative study was the first to investigate the use of EM with children. The research was carried out in three European jurisdictions: England and Wales, Hungary, the Netherlands. The jurisdictions were selected because important differences exist in the way in which their youth justice system operate, in their organisational models and the maturity of EM. Consequently, they provided good case studies to compare legal and policy frameworks and the operation of EM as well as measuring compliance with international children’s rights standards.
The overall aim of the research was to investigate the implementation EM and the way it serves the best interests of children in the youth justice systems in three European jurisdictions. The specific objectives were to: i) examine and compare the legal and policy framework for the use of EM; ii) examine and compare the implementation of EM in practice; iii) assess the extent to which EM complies with the international requirements relating to alternatives to deprivation of liberty; and iv) investigate the views of the stakeholders and children about the use of EM in the youth justice system.
The project used a mixed method approach including: an extensive law and policy review alongside observations of aspects of the EM systems; 70 interviews with policy-makers and practitioners involved in the provision of EM; administrative data on cases in which EM had been used with children; and four interviews with children subject to EM. The research also included 12 focus groups with 60 school children to gauge their views and experiences of EM.
This project provides a comprehensive picture of the law and policy, which regulates the use of EM with children and how EM operates in practice in the three jurisdictions. The research found that two EM technologies are used in the three jurisdictions: radio-frequency (RF) and GPS technologies. Both technologies were available in England and Wales and the Netherlands, while the Hungarian system relies solely on GPS. The three EM systems represent three distinct institutional models: the control model (Hungary), the due process model (England and Wales) and the rehabilitation model (Netherlands). These models reflect the legal and regulatory context in which EM operates as well as the dominant approach of professionals to assessment, support and supervision of children on EM. EM law, policy and practice are embedded within, and interconnected with, the youth justice system. A youth justice system which reflects a children’s rights approach as found in the Netherlands also has a child-orientated approach to EM. By contrast, a lack of awareness of children’s special status limits the measures put in place to ensure the child-friendly use of EM in Hungary, which operates in the same way as it does for adults. However, notable differences existed both between and within jurisdictions in the extent to which they aim to limit the use of EM with children, guarantee their participatory rights and assess their needs when considering their best interests. The findings provide important clues to how EM may be used to reduce measures, which deprive children of their liberty pre- and post-conviction in ways which respect children’s rights.
The research provides evidence and detailed analysis of the regulation and operational realities of three youth EM systems. It provides an up-to-date evaluation of the systems for academic audiences and national policy makers and practitioners. Findings about assessment processes, monitoring arrangements and the need for trained and specialised staff to deal with children are directly relevant to the everyday management of EM in youth justice systems, while other findings could feed into legal and policy development in specific jurisdictions. Many of the research findings highlight areas for refinement and inter-agency discussions rather than substantial structural changes, thereby building on the strengths of established youth EM systems.
The research informs national and international policy makers about the best approach to respecting, protecting and promoting children’s rights when utilising EM technologies in youth justice. The findings suggest that integrating EM into existing youth justice systems is the first step towards creating child-friendly EM systems. The legal and policy framework should consider the impact of monitoring on the daily lives of children, including the way it affects their behaviour while on EM. Support will only be effective if: i) it is provided by practitioners trained to address children’s needs; ii) focuses on strategies to bring about desistance; and iii) monitoring systems (policies, equipment and regimes) reflect the social and individual needs of children depending on their age and personal circumstances. Building on these basic principles, a comprehensive approach should be developed and promoted within and across the different jurisdictions.
The project website provides a useful resource for policy-makers, practitioners, children and the general public. It includes explanations of how EM is used with children for different audiences and a comparative report as well as one for each jurisdiction. Dissemination to policy-makers and practitioners continues. The project also signalled the need for further research, primarily on the legal interpretation and the goals of and approaches to supervision of EM.
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