Tackling juvenile crime

People between the ages of 12 and 18 are subject to juvenile criminal law. Less serious offences such as shoplifting or criminal damage are generally dealt with by the police (Halt-afdoening).

Young offenders may be required to follow a course (and sometimes to work for a certain number of hours without pay), apologise to the victim and pay for whatever damage they have caused. Their parents or guardians are closely involved in this process.

In certain cases young adults between the ages of 18 and 23 are also subject to juvenile criminal law, for example if the offender is intellectually impaired.

More serious offences are referred to the public prosecutor, who can impose a fine or an alternative sanction. If the prosecutor considers the offence serious, he or she may decide to put the case before a juvenile court (kinderrechter). In the most serious cases, the judge may sentence the minor to a term in a special custodial institution for young offenders.

In special cases, defendants aged 16 and over may be tried under adult criminal law.