Child participation in justice

Under the leadership of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), the Institute of Baltic Studies (IBS), the PRAXIS Center for Policy Studies and the Estonian Center for Human Rights (ECHR) conducted the first such study on children’s rights in court proceedings.

The purpose of the study was to find out how well the rights of the child, as enshrined in different legal instruments, are actually protected in court proceedings, the extent to which the best interests of the child are paramount in court proceedings and the training of professionals to work with children. To this end, 51 Estonian specialists were interviewed, including child protection and social workers, victim support specialists, psychologists, judges, prosecutors, lawyers, court officers and police officers.

The study found that Estonian court proceedings cannot be considered child-friendly in most cases. Among other issues, the right of children to be informed and consulted in practice, and the specific needs of children are often not taken into account during interrogation (for example, the interrogation rooms used are not suitable for children). Post-trial counseling was also considered to be deficient. According to the experts, training of professionals and parents, introduction of child-friendly practices in court proceedings, and closer communication and cooperation between the parties and officials of the proceedings would help to solve many problems.

The study was conducted in parallel in 10 European countries. These reports provide the results of the first phase of the study. The second phase of the study consisted of interviewing the children involved in the trial. The results of this phase will be made public in 2016.