Following a number of highly publicized incidents of violence commited by juveniles the country’s Justice Minister, Jiří Pospíšil, is pushing for tougher consequences for minors under the age of 15 who commit brutal crimes. Under the minister’s plan, children who normally would not be held accountable, but represent a serious threat to others, would not end up in correctional homes but in stricter facilities.
One of the worst cases of youth violence shocked many earlier this year when two boys, aged 16 and 14 in north Bohemia, beat a 12-year-old so badly he ended up in the hospital. The 16-year-old was charged, the 14-year-old was not and acted only as a witness in the case that was decided last week. He was only sent back to the reformatory home without serious repercussions. Staff at the home said the boy was particularly unruly and the cause of constant strife and even the ruling judge in the case indicated the boy had apparently learned little from his actions. She said she thought it was only a matter of time before he appeared before the court again for a different crime.
The question is how to improve the situation. The Justice Minister Jiří Pospíšil has made clear that in extreme cases, serious offenders under 15 should be sent to detention facilities where they would have to undergo treatment and also be kept under higher security. Here is what the justice minister had to say:
“In extreme cases where it comes to light that a child unfortunately has a mental disorder that makes them dangerous to others, even as a child and later as an adult - and they refuse treatment – they need to be isolated.”
The minister will raise the issue with Parliament’s Constitutional Law Committee as well as with child psychologists, lawyers, and other specialists, some of whom say the push to introduce tougher restrictions for minors who cannot be tried as adults is the right step. Police psychologist Ludmila Čírtková spoke to Czech TV:
“This is the right decision. When you have such cases the families are usually completely dysfunctional and regular children’s homes do not have the means to deal with serious delinquents.”
Others have pushed for an increase in the quality and number of specialized personnel at existing homes themselves, where psychologists have to deal with dozens with problem children. Personnel could benefit further, some noted, from further specialized training, something backed by the Education Ministry, which reportedly wants to change the current system of children’s homes from the ground up. Theoretically, those could go in tandem with changes proposed by the Justice Minister.
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