Source: (2004) Paper presented at "New Frontiers in Restorative Justice: Advancing Theory and Practice", Centre for Justice and Peace Development, Massey University at Albany, New Zealand, 2-5 December.

The common approach toward children who have been victimised by criminal acts is a paternalistic one. Legal systems have been seeking ways to limit child-victims' participation in the criminal justice proceedings against their offenders, to minimized the risk of further trauma of these children. Child protection services, when involved, focus on healing the child separately from the rehabilitation/incarceration of the offender. This paternalistic approach, despite its good intentions, is not in line with internationally accepted children's rights concepts. In this session I will describe shortly the general principles related to children's rights as provided in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and in particular the participation principle - the right of every child to take part in any decision-making process affecting his or her life. While the participation right is being gradually implemented in many fields of children's lives, hardly any participation exists with regard to the criminal justice process that follows an offence against children. Restorative justice, on the other hand, puts victims, together with offenders and communities, at the centre, and encourages active participation in the process. Until today, however, very little is known about the special needs and rights of child-victims participating in such processes. No wonder, then, that there are very few programs world wide that integrate child-victims on a regular basis, especially not in severe cases such as family violence and sexual offences. I will discuss the importance of child-participation in restorative justice processes from both children's rights and victims' needs perspectives. Abstract courtesy of the Centre for Justice and Peace Development, Massey University, http://justpeace.massey.ac.nz.