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Professional Training for Lawyers About Court Proceedings Against Underage and Young Off-age Persons

Lectures on the judicial treatment of underage and juvenile offenders (aged 18-21 at the time of offence and under 23 at the time of court trial) in the justice institutions of Croatia were given in the Croatian Bar Association on 9 May 2017. Following the contemporary examples of good practice, the lectures were intersectoral, in cooperation with Prof. Sc.D. Gordana Buljan Flander, psychologist and psychotherapist and Lana Peto Kujundžić, judge of the County Juvenile Court Zagreb.

Prof. Sc.D. Gordana Buljan Flander outlined new findings in the field of neuroscience and their implications in working with juvenile offenders. Neuroscientific studies systematically show that human brain usually develops till mid twenties, and that the areas with the most significant role in committing criminal offences and criminal liability are the last to mature. These findings were the strongest incentive in abolishing death penalty for crime offenders below the age of 18 in the USA.

Prof. Sc.D. Gordana Buljan Flander pointed out that understanding specific various areas of development of underage and juvenile offenders was crucial in understanding their motives for offence and in making decisions for appropriate measures, as well as for everyday work with youth, overcoming resistance and establishing cooperation.

Judge Peto Kujundžić presented a special juvenile crime and legal protection of children Law on Juvenile Courts. She underscored that the Law requires that a legal representative has to be appointed for every underage offender and for all offences, from the very first interrogation, and especially when the offender is in detention in custody, when a decision has to be made about institutional educational measures, or about juvenile prison sentence. She also explained which competences were necessary for such legal representatives and with whom they should collaborate.

Judge Peto Kujundžić said that according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Guidelines of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on Child-Friendly Justice, in each case alternative solutions should be considered and followed if the same goal as with a court trial was possible to achieve, with the instituted court proceedings stopped at the earliest stage.

She emphasised that social welfare services reports would be applied for cases with juvenile offenders, that everybody has to give statements about the offender’s character and life circumstances and that state attorneys and police officers specialised for youth work should with these offenders.