It is necessary to reach the maximum consent on the topic of juvenile justice, Justice Minister Tsetska Tsacheva said during the opening of the conference on the topic of “The National Justice System as Part of the European Legal Order. Juvenile Justice – Challenges and Possible Solutions” organised by the Ministry of Justice and the Member of the European from the party Citizens for a European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) Emil Radev.
The event held with the assistance of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy was also attended by Deputy Social Minister Rositsa Dimitrova.
Minister Tsacheva expressed the hope that a consensus would be reached on the updated version of the bill on avoiding criminal proceedings and imposing correctional measures on minors.
There are three questions on which agreement is yet to be reached in the working group on the bill before it is finalized in view of the need to coordinate the horizontal policies pursued in the area by the Ministries of Justice, of Education, of Labour and Social Policy, and of the Interior.
The working group will have a view on the issues in the shortest terms: should minors be included in the scope of the law; where should the National Correctional Support Service be situated – at the Ministry of Justice or the Council of Ministers; and which authority should impose correctional measures.
“The Ministry of Justice team is making the maximum efforts for a dialogue and cooperation both with the non-governmental sector and individual institutions involved in juvenile justice,” Minister Tsacheva stated and went on that the reform in the area is a priority in the governance program of GERB and the United Patriots and active work on it has been carried out in the past year.
According to her, the goal of the entire conference today is to have the united voice of the European family heard and to resolve a number of issues with the rights of children during the administration of justice. She recalled that one of the main priorities of the Bulgarian Presidency is the reform on the Brussels IIa Regulation which impacts on the competence, recognition and execution of judgments in family matters and issues related to parental responsibility and the international abduction of children.
“The reform of this Regulation is critical. In 2010 alone, approximately 74,000 children in 11 Member States were victims of crime and 495,000 suffered from the divorce of their parents. We could only image the numbers of the entire European Union. The proceedings can be stressful to anyone, let alone children, especially if the procedure does not take into account their interests, the setting is not appropriate and the participating officers have not had sufficient training,” Emil Radev explained.
He noted that the reform in the Regulation envisages more efficient proceedings to deal with the cross-border abduction of a child by a parent; a six-week term is introduced for the issuance of an order subject to execution for the return in accordance with the prevailing opinion among the Member States which hear cases for return under the Hague Convention of 1980 the fastest. The same term is provided for the proceedings before the first-instance court and, respectively, the appellate court.
The new rules introduce an obligation to allow the child to express their opinion in the course of all proceedings in their case.
The MEP also focused on the elimination of exequatur in such proceedings which will be accompanied with guarantees for the respondent’s rights to effective defence and the right to a fair trial.
Best practices from around the world and Europe were presented during the conference by Sir Matthew Thorpe, a judge from the United Kingdom, Gonzalo Ferrer Amigo, a judge on the Regional Court in Barcelona, and Maya Groff from the Secretariat of the Hague Conference on Private International Law.
The Bulgarian lecturers included Daniela Masheva, a member of the Supreme Judicial Council, Bogdana Zhelyavska, a judge on the Sofia City Court, Attorney-at-Law Aneli Chobanova, Borislav Tsekov, Ph.D. in constitutional law, member of the Legal Council of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria.