In response to growing acts of violence among juveniles, the Czech government has approved an amendment to the law on juvenile crime which would give the courts greater powers in dealing with the worst offenders. Whereas now adolescent murderers walk free at the age of 18 with a clean criminal record, under the new law they could find themselves under long-term medical supervision -or - isolated for life.
Juvenile crime is a growing problem but it was one particular case that set this ball rolling. In 2004 a girl of 13 was raped and murdered in the town of Kmetiněves. Unable to track down the offender the police asked all the men in town to undergo DNA tests eventually bringing down the age limit to include boys of the victims age. The tests revealed that she had been brutally raped and murdered by her classmate. In line with existing legislation he was placed in a detention centre for juvenile murders and ordered to undergo treatment. When, at reaching maturity he was released with a clean criminal record and returned home public outrage forced him out of town to the anonymity of a big city. However the local inhabitants did not leave it at that. They started a petition calling for better protection against adolescent murderers and chronic offenders of violent crimes. The petition was eventually signed by half a million people. The town mayor, Luděk Kvapil on Wednesday welcomed the proposed amendment to the law.
“The government-proposed bill is a big step in the right direction. A move that should help protect not only society from such people, but to protect them from themselves. It is essential to prevent murderers who have been detected from repeating their crimes.”
At present the law enable judges to order juvenile murderers to undergo compulsory treatment. However when they reach the age of 18 (in exceptional cases the court can keep them in detention for another year) they are released with a clean criminal record and further treatment is voluntary. Under the proposed amendment the courts would be able to extend the period of inpatient treatment or compulsory outpatient treatment for as long as the offender is considered dangerous to society – if need be for life. However the case would have to be reviewed at least once a year by the respective court.
Psychologist Slavomil Hubálek says the proposed bill is sensible.
“The amendment would enable perpetrators of really serious crimes –such as murders or violent youths to be given proper treatment depending on their condition – be it isolation, outpatient care or simply remaining under medical supervision and coming in for regular check-ups. Not just for their own sake but also to protect society.”
If the proposed legislation passes smoothly thorough both houses of Parliament and is signed by the president is could take effect as of July this year.
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