The project “Listen to the child – justice befriends the child” aims to improve the situation of child victims or witnesses of violence, involved in legal proceedings, by introducing an integrated approach towards the child, based on an individual assessment of their specific needs.
It is implemented withi 24 months in four European countries – Bulgaria, Romania, Italy, and France, and in partnership with the International Juvenile Justice Observatory (Belgium). It is financially supported by the Criminal Justice Programme of the European Union.
On 25 October 2012, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union adopted Directive 2012/29/EC establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime. The member States shall bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions, necessary to comply with the Directive, by 16 November 2015. Art. 22 of the Directive provides that the victims receive an individual assessment of the needs aimed at determining their specific needs of protection: “Member States shall ensure that victims receive a timely and individual assessment, in accordance with national procedures, to identify specific protection needs and to determine whether and to what extent they would benefit from special measures in the course of criminal proceedings, as provided for under Articles 23 and 24, due to their particular vulnerability to secondary and repeat victimisation, to intimidation and to retaliation.”
Four partner countries have different experience and practices for the preparation of assessment of the needs of child witnesses, at the national level or as pilot practices. One of the project aims is to develop a model for assessment with clear and recognisable methodology, based on the best performances of each country.
The other main accent of the project is integrating psycho-social, medical, and legal services around the child victim in order to provide adequate protection. In this part of the project the analysis is extended on two more countries, the UK (Northern Ireland) and Finland, due to the traditional differences between the systems of these countries and the countries from Central and Eastern Europe.
The project is particularly important for Bulgaria and Romania, where there is an ongoing policy reform of the justice systems.
Individual assessment of the needs
This activity also includes piloting of a model for individual assessment of the needs of child victims of crime and a model for a better institutional cooperation for assessment and protection of the interest of the injured child. The model was piloted for 10 months in Vidin municipality, Bulgaria, and the services were provided in the Complex for Social Services for Children and Families – Vidin.
Integrated multidisciplinary approach.
Dissemination of the project results and lobbying for change.
The project management and coordination is carried out through regular partner meetings; meetings of the project Support Council, involving representatives of the key stakeholders and decision makers; the project monitoring and evaluation is performed by experts from the International Juvenile Justice Observatory (IJJO). The evaluation is provided to be made in the middle and at the end of the project. In order to guarantee the participation of end users – child victims of crime and their parents, end users were involved in the Support Councils and the evaluation of the project products.
PROJECT DURATION: 24 months
PROJECT BUDGET: 332 338 Euro
Partners in the project are:
The results follow 3 main courses - integrating services for justice, protection, and rehabilitation of the child.
A major outcome is the first-time formation of a common approach, clear methodology and model for unifying the various psycho-social, medical, and legal research in a holistic child assessment.
We expect the project to demonstrate through its products opportunities for basing different interventions (judicial, protection and rehabilitation) on a holistic assessment and the child’s best interest. We expect that as a result of piloting the assessment with 15 children, performed in the period April 2015 – March 2016, there will be created conditions to prevent a secondary victimization and ensure successful rehabilitation, thanks to the synchronized approach by the institutions.
Thanks to the mutual expert work we produced specific work instruments, such as an educational toolkit comprising of a guidebook and a training movie. They will be made available to users in 5 languages, in total of 1250 copies at the end of the project in April 2016.
The products were developed on the partners’ experience plus 2 more countries from different EU regions, a total of 6 states. The recommendations were consulted with professionals from all countries, as well as children (and their families), with experience in legal procedures – total of 40 representatives of the end beneficiary (20 for FR and BG, 10 for IT and RO).
The project included an international training for trainers with the developed educational toolkit - we trained 50 trainers (Bulgaria and Romania), who have reach total of 400 professionals (200 for Bulgaria and 200 for Romania).
We anticipate improving and expanding the practice of child participation in legal procedures in Bulgaria mainly by:
- the Protocol for inter-institutional interaction in cases of a crime against children – based on the experience of France and Italy, as well as on the existing good practices in our country, we developed a protocol for cooperation in cases of crimes against children, that includes all actors - social structures and services, police, court, prosecution, hospitals, municipal and regional administrations.
- continuing the specialization of the national expert team for child hearing as well as the specialization of prosecutors, judges and policemen for work with child participants in legal procedures;
- achieving a common inter-institutional approach in the area of justice, protection and rehabilitation of child victims or witnesses of crime.
We expect that this project will advance the improvement of multidisciplinary and integrated practices as well as conceptualizing the practices around the child in all partner countries, as well as at the EU level. The improvement is in bringing the services to the child and catering them to its best interest and stage of development. We expect the project to contribute to the overall elimination of the ‘competency to testify’ assessment, still in effect in Bulgaria and Romania, and as a result, to raising the validity of testimonials of children.
Overall, in Bulgaria, we achieved a level of awareness and sensitivity among the key actors in the justice system regarding the child’s participation and the need to guarantee its rights. The Social Activities and Practices Institute is a part of the working group to the Ministry of Justice; we supported its work in the process of creation of the proposals for amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code aiming to contribute to the implementation of the Directive 29/2012/EC in our country.
We expect that the educational tools, and specifically the recommendations, will facilitate a quicker transposing of the Directive 29/2012/EU in national legislations and practices. That would be a stable way for efforts to be beneficial to the end users – the children.