More severe punishments for at-risk youths

With the introduction of adolescent criminal law, State Secretary Teeven for Security and Justice has announced a broad set of measures that will enable him to tackle crime by at-risk youths better and more effectively. Adolescent criminal law provides a coherent set of sanctions for young people between 15 and 23 years of age which focuses on a tough and, in particular, consistent approach to at-risk youths, and which will make it possible to impose more severe punishments for serious offences. Teeven has presented its plans in a letter to the Lower House of Parliament today.

The government wants to reduce unacceptable and deviant behaviour of at-risk youths. With the introduction of adolescent criminal law, Teeven has given content to the agreements as laid down in the coalition agreement. The elements from the punitive compulsory military service that has been announced as well form an integral part of adolescent criminal law.

More than in a system with fixed age limits, adolescent criminal law provides the possibility to take account of the development of the young person concerned, the seriousness of the offence, and the circumstance in which the offence was committed. This is the reason why the State Secretary has announced a coherent set of sanctions for the target group of young people between 15 and 23 years of age, as a result of which the criminal approaches to young people who are younger and older than 18 years of age will be more effectively integrated with each other.

In addition, the measures in adolescent criminal law will make it possible to impose more severe punishments for serious offences. The maximum term of juvenile detention, for instance, will be raised from two years to four years, and a community service punishment order will no longer be the only punishment for grave sexual or violent crimes. In those cases where it becomes evident that the convicted person is still dangerous at the end of his/her detention in such an institution, the court will also be given the possibility to convert placement in a judicial institution for juvenile offenders into a placement under a hospital order.

Teeven will furthermore take several measures to impose punishments in a smarter and more efficient manner. He stated, for instance, that he intends to increase the use of electronic supervision, and to promote the use of intensive family-directed interventions. In addition, the court will be given the possibility to impose participation in an educational programme as a special condition on a young person. It will furthermore be possible to temporarily place the young person in a correctional institution for juvenile offenders (a ‘time-out’) if the young person fails to co-operate sufficiently after the court has imposed a behaviour reform measure.

Finally, the State Secretary is of the opinion that the approach to at-risk youths should be applied more consistently, for instance by taking more severe action when community service punishment orders have failed to achieve their aim. A draft bill on these issues will be submitted to the Council of State for its opinion after the summer.