For minors, a judgment now in two stages: “We ask more of justice without increasing the means”

The juvenile criminal justice code (CJPM), adopted in February 2021, comes into force on Thursday, September 30. The purpose of this text is to clarify the procedures for minors, which the stacking of reforms had sometimes made illegible.

The central point of this reform is the discontinuation of the criminal trial in two stages with, initially, a hearing which decides on the guilt of the minor and which must intervene within three months following the facts; then, secondly, a hearing to decide on a sanction, six to nine months later. In the meantime, the minor is subject to a period of “Educational testing”, an observation period which may include educational measures and security measures.

Until now, the time limits for the trial of minors have been eighteen months, with a first hearing devoted to the indictment, then the establishment of investigations and socio-judicial follow-up, before the trial hearing.

This principle of hyphenation nevertheless has exceptions: the CJPM makes it possible to hold a single hearing, ruling on both guilt and sanction, “For facts of a certain gravity”, or when the minor is already the subject of educational monitoring, or when a simple educational measure is pronounced.

Read also Parliament definitively adopts reform of juvenile criminal justice

Sophie Legrand, general secretary of the Syndicat de la magistrature (SM) and former juvenile judge, reconsiders this measure.

What is your view on the introduction of a two-step break in the criminal proceedings for minors?

In reality, for minors, this caesura already existed, since there was first an indictment, then educational or investigative measures – aimed at better understanding the personality of a minor, his background, his environment. social and family – and later a judgment. This way of doing things allows the person to evolve in the meantime.

What changes is to start by deciding on the guilt of the minor, then to decide on a sanction. Insofar as approximately 70% of accused minors acknowledge the facts with which they are accused, the text conforms to the reality of the majority of the cases dealt with. The problem is that CJPM imposes very tight deadlines.

The first hearing must be held no later than three months from the summons issued by the public prosecutor. In practice, this is not tenable: currently, in some courts, the deadlines are longer than six months before a first summons. There is a lack of children’s judges to meet these deadlines.

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