The most frequently occurring criminal behaviour among young people in the Caribbean Netherlands is theft and driving without a driving license. This has emerged from research conducted by the Research and Documentation Centre (WODC). Organizations in the criminal justice chain are positive about the implementation of juvenile criminal law in the Caribbean Netherlands. In this respect a pedagogic approach is chosen for juveniles who commit criminal offenses.
In preparation for the implementation of juvenile criminal law in the Caribbean Netherlands, the Research and Documentation Centre (WODC) conducted research on the nature and scope of crimes committed by minors and adolescents in 2018. In total it regarded 105 juveniles in the age groups of 12-18 and 18-21 years who had dealings with the criminal justice system. The most frequently occurring criminal offenses are theft and driving without a driving license. For more than half of the juveniles it was the first time that they had dealings with the criminal justice system.
The WODC research also shows that organizations in the criminal justice chain are positive about the implementation of juvenile justice on the BES Islands. Juvenile criminal law offers more options to provide young people good assistance and counselling. Chain partners have already initiated preparations for the implementation of juvenile criminal law, for instance by following courses and training.
Juvenile justice: encouraging young people to adopt positive behavioural change
Although the current criminal law in the Caribbean Netherlands has special provisions for young people up to the age of eighteen, there is no separate juvenile criminal law yet. This regularly leads that young people are being punished in the same manner as adults or that juvenile cases are not handled further. As a result, young people do not receive proper guidance to prevent recidivism.
With the introduction of juvenile criminal law, there will be more options to handle criminal behaviour in a manner that is more in line with young people. The preparations for this are in full swing. It is expected that juvenile criminal law will be implemented in the Caribbean Netherlands this year. This is in line with the principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
Characteristic of juvenile criminal law is the pedagogic approach and the ‘out-of-court settlement’ for minor crimes, comparable to the Halt sentence in the European Netherlands. This means that a sentence for a minor criminal offense such as vandalism, school absenteeism or driving without a driving license, is of a pedagogic nature. This sentence is handled outside the courtroom of court so that a young person does not immediately have a criminal record. Such a punitive measure does, however, have the aim of positively influencing the behaviour, improving the environment of the juvenile and preventing repetition of criminal behaviour.
Juvenile detention can be imposed for serious criminal offenses. This is a prison sentence for young people and will only occur as a last resort, when there are no other options.