Juvenile justice should be neither punitive nor retributive, but rather emphasise prevention as a first priority. If children have already come into conflict with the law, however, rights-based measures should be taken to divert them away from the formal justice system into community-centred social education and reintegration programmes wherever possible and appropriate. Where children are nonetheless formally processed and sentenced, every effort must be made to find a suitable non-custodial measure and thereby ensure that children are deprived of their liberty only as a last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time. Restorative justice approaches merit particular attention as they seek to address the root causes of offending behaviour rather than simply examine the events surrounding an offence in isolation.
Children must also have recourse when violence is perpetrated against them, and rights-based, child-sensitive complaints mechanisms should be accessible at all stages of the juvenile justice system. At the same time, the situation of children in conflict with the law must be actively monitored to guarantee full support and protection. In addition, relevant data should be collected to determine the extent and nature of violence against children in the juvenile justice system, and research should be undertaken to develop and improve individual responses and interventions. Last, countries must build public support for non-violent juvenile justice and foster greater respect for the rights of children in conflict with the law.
...Restorative justice measures build on the strengths of traditional justice systems to provide effective, flexible and locally appropriate responses. Even where national resources are scarce, communities can build programmes that support the rights, growth, development, rehabilitation and reintegration of children in conflict with the law. Restorative approaches are particularly well-suited to diversion, as they offer a means to address the offence outside the formal justice system. By the same token, restorative elements may also be incorporated into dispositions to provide more suitable non-custodial measures.
National laws, policies and practices should facilitate restorative justice responses wherever possible and appropriate given the individual circumstances of each case. Nonetheless, it is important to recognise that restorative justice processes are by their very nature not strictly child-focused as they directly involve victims, families, schools, peers and other members of the community. While this wider approach promises to more readily facilitate children’s reintegration, it must not come at the cost of children’s rights. Measures must be taken to ensure that children retain the right to consult with a lawyer; have access to the assistance of a parent, guardian or interested adult; and are fully informed of their rights, the nature of the restorative justice process, and the potential consequences of accepting a restorative intervention.