The Dutch Government wants to introduce penal legislation for adolescents

The penal legislation for adolescents bill, which contains a wide range of measures, is intended to enable the Dutch government to start tackling crime by at-risk youths better and more effectively. The penal legislation for adolescents offers a coherent set of sanctions for 15 to 23-year-olds which focuses on a firm and, above all, consistent approach to at-risk youths. The bill also offers greater flexibility as regards imposing penalties on those aged around 18. The cabinet has agreed to this based on a proposal by State Secretary Teeven of Security and Justice.

The Dutch government wants to reduce unacceptable behaviour by at-risk youths. By introducing penal legislation for adolescents the Dutch government is fulfilling the agreements laid down in the coalition agreement. The penal legislation for adolescents offers the possibility, to a greater extent than the current system does, to take account of the development of the youth in question, the seriousness of the offence and the circumstances in which the offence was committed. For that reason, the Dutch government is introducing a coherent set of sanctions for the target group of young people aged between 15 and 23, so that criminal law measures applicable to those aged around 18 link up more effectively. With this in mind, a new supervision method is being developed, parallel to the bill, and criteria are being drawn up to determine in which cases juvenile criminal law, and in which cases adult criminal law, can best be applied.

What is more, the measures in the penal legislation for adolescents make it possible to impose more severe punishments in the event of serious offences. For example, the maximum term of juvenile detention is to be increased from two to four years and it will no longer be possible to punish a serious sexual or violent offence with just community service. The Dutch government is also proposing changes to the measures for juveniles and young adults to offer society better protection against dangerous offenders. For example, courts are to be given the chance to the change compulsory aftercare imposed on juvenile delinquents who are detained in a juvenile offenders' institution into a placement under a hospital order in those instances, in which it transpires that the offender still poses a threat at the time that the compulsory aftercare comes to an end.

In addition, the Dutch government is taking a number of measures to facilitate smarter and more efficient sentences. This is taking the form of, among other things, the more frequent use of electronic tagging and promotion of the use of intensive, family-oriented interventions. The courts are also to be given the possibility of sentencing young people to attend education courses as a special condition. The measure intended to change behaviour will also offer the option of temporarily placing the juvenile in a juvenile offenders' institution in the event of insufficient cooperation (referred to as a ‘time-out’). Lastly, the Dutch government believes that more consistency is needed as regards implementation, for example by imposing more severe measures in the event of failed community service. 

The Cabinet has agreed to send the Bill for advice to the Council of State. The text of the Bill and of the advice by the Council of State become public when they are submitted to the Lower House of Parliament.