Juvenile criminal law in force in the Caribbean Netherlands

Juvenile criminal law is applicable in the Caribbean Netherlands as of August 1st, 2020. The pedagogical approach is characteristic of juvenile criminal law. This means that punishments and measures for young people aged 12 to 18 are aimed at having a positive impact on behaviour, re-education and preventing recidivism.

Handbag and lipstick; illustrative image
©Rijksdienst voor Caribisch Nederland

With the introduction of juvenile criminal law, there will be more options in the juvenile criminal law chain to deal with criminal behaviour. Important elements in this process include the reintroduction of the Halt programme, the introduction of juvenile detention, the coordination of community service orders and the supervision of special conditions by the Probation Office.

Avoid a criminal record

In the case of petty crimes like vandalism, skipping school or driving without a driving licence, the police may refer young people to Halt. There juveniles are given the opportunity to rectify their criminal behaviour. Halt aims to stop transgressive behaviour among juveniles as early as possible by means of interviews, work and educational assignments, and apologising to the victim. If the Halt programme is completed successfully, the juvenile will not receive a criminal record.

Serious offences

In the case of more serious offences like abuse or an act of violence, the Public Prosecution Service may decide to prosecute a juvenile. The Guardianship Council will then investigate the juvenile’s past history and subsequently advises the Public Prosecution Service’s Public Prosecutor on what punishment would be most suitable for the young person. The Court ultimately decides what punishment will be imposed.

The Court may impose a fine or juvenile detention on the young person. The latter is a prison sentence specifically intended for juveniles who have committed a serious offence. The Court may also impose this punishment as a suspended sentence. This will be done under special conditions. If a juvenile reoffends or does not comply with the conditions, the Court may decide that the juvenile must be placed in juvenile detention after all. In detention, different rules apply to the youth section. For instance, minors may not be placed in solitary confinement and neither may they be placed together with adults. Additionally, there are guidelines for juveniles regarding daytime activities, education and receiving visitors.

Special conditions which can be imposed on juveniles are for instance a community service order, compulsory treatment or a curfew. The Probation Office coordinates community service orders and monitors a juvenile’s observance of special conditions. Often a juvenile is also assigned a Youth Care (in Dutch: Jeugdzorg) probation counsellor. The objective is to keep the juvenile on the right path and to ensure that they do not reoffend. If this is successful, it will be beneficial for both the juvenile and the community.