The bill had been put on the table by Nicole Belloubet, to everyone’s surprise. On November 23, 2018, the one who was still Minister of Justice at the time, proposed to the National Assembly a government amendment to the justice reform bill to reform juvenile justice.
A little more than two years later, the bill is examined this Tuesday in final reading in the National Assembly. Appointed Keeper of the Seals last July, Eric Dupond-Moretti has taken up the torch of this widely contested reform, in particular by childcare professionals. Initially, the government had counted on an entry into force on October 1, 2021.
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Juvenile justice is currently based on the ordinance of February 2, 1945, which had been promulgated in its time by General de Gaulle. In the meantime, the text has been changed many times. Forty amendments have in fact been voted on since. The government thus wishes to create a Code of Criminal Justice for minors which would replace this ordinance.
This bill contains in particular the introduction of a presumption of non-discernment under the age of 13. This means that a judge will be able to determine whether a minor under the age of 13 has a capacity for discernment and thus make him criminally responsible. However, only an educational measure could be decided. The penalty is excluded.
The text also greatly speeds up the procedure when a minor is tried. While the delays are generally 18 months between the facts and the trial, according to Release, the future Code of Criminal Justice for Minors provides for a “judgment on his guilt within three months following the commission of the facts then [le] followed by an educator, under the supervision of the judge, for an educational probation period of six to nine months. ”
Limited pre-trial detention
Finally, the bill intends to limit pre-trial detention. “It will remain possible for the most serious facts, but the conditions for revoking judicial control are better supervised and placement in a closed educational center will be the preferred security measure”, according to the report of the Council of Ministers of October 30, 2019.
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This Tuesday in the National Assembly, amendments could be proposed. “Parliamentarians will have every possibility to enrich the text or to modify it, as the government had undertaken to do,” the government said at the time.
According to the Ministry of Justice, nearly 383,000 minors are taken into care by the courts each year. In a column published by Franceinfo, 200 personalities linked to the protection of young people, including lawyers, members of magistrates’ trade unions or even social workers, denounce a bill with “ever more repression and ever less education”. “In addition to the form, the substance of this draft code questions and appears to be motivated only by managerial imperatives, the goal being ultimately to do ‘faster’, without giving itself the means, to the detriment of quality educational support, ”say the signatories.
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