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Children In The Justice System


Course requirements

Master degree.

Course information

This course offers a children’s rights perspective on children in the justice system, which includes children (allegedly) in conflict with the law as well as children who are involved in the justice system as victims and/or witnesses. Since the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), juvenile justice has been recognized as a human rights issue and as a consequence the position of children in conflict with the law has gained significant attention. This has resulted in additional standard setting at the international and regional levels, many initiatives of domestic law reform throughout the world and the development of child-specific case law, both at the regional level and the national level (also in a country like the United States that has not ratified the CRC) on the imposition of sentences, the use of coercive measures, such as pre-trial detention, and legal safeguards, including e.g. the right to legal counsel during police interrogations. In addition, there has been increased attention for the right to participate effectively in juvenile justice proceedings as part of the child’s right to a fair trial. This resulted, among others, in the emergence of the concept of child-friendly justice (in Europe and elsewhere), which revolves around children’s right to participate effectively justice proceedings, including criminal justice proceedings. In 2019, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child adopted a new General Comment on children’s rights in the child justice system (No. 24), replacing its previous General Comment on the matter (No. 10, 2007). All these developments have a broader impact on children in the justice system, including child victims and witnesses.

Course objectives

  • Students gain thorough knowledge and understanding of the main features of UN and regional juvenile justice standards and standards concerning child victims and witnesses, including the ways in which different standards co-exist, overlap and may influence each other;

  • Students gain thorough knowledge and understanding of the key issues concerning the administration of juvenile justice, including the key objectives of juvenile justice, procedural rights and safeguards and disposition of juvenile justice cases (diversion, non-custodial sentences and deprivation of liberty, see also below);

  • Students gain thorough knowledge and understanding of the most significant controversies in the administration of juvenile justice, including the roles of key stakeholders and age limits;

  • Students gain thorough knowledge and understanding of the issue of deprivation of liberty, both with regard to the requirements for the use of deprivation of liberty and the legal status of children deprived of their liberty, including protection against violence;

  • Students gain thorough knowledge and understanding of the position of child victims and witnesses, from a children’s rights perspective, and also in relation to the position of the fair trial rights of the accused;

  • Students gain research and academic writing skills and learn how to critically reflect on the acquired knowledge and understanding of children’s rights in the context of children in the justice system in an academic paper.

Mode of instruction

Lecture: 5 weeks of lectures (2 or 3 hours)
Seminar: 5 weeks of seminars (2 or 3 hours) and one pre-exam session (1 or 2 hours)

Examination method

  • Written academic paper (max. 3.500 – 4.000 words), which counts for 100 % of the final grade.

Students will have to write an academic paper for this course. A paper trajectory will be part of the course, which may include a short oral presentation and/or peer feedback.

The opportunity exists to re-take the written paper. It will be up to the discretion of the relevant lecturer/examiner to decide on the form of the retake. The retake may consist of a written retake paper or exam, oral retake exam or any other kind of assessment that is deemed appropriate.


The literature is distributed through Brightspace.
Submission of assignment(s) via Brightspace.

Course materials

A list of all study materials will be published on Brightspace. Unless otherwise indicated, all study materials are available via the online catalogue of the Leiden Law Library. Where possible, all required and recommended reading materials will be made available through Brightspace.


Coordinator of the course:
Ms. Lisanne van Dijck, LL.M
Email address:

Programme Officer:
Ms. Esther Uiterweerd
Telephone number: 0031-71 527 4644
Email address:

Currently these pages are being updated to reflect the courses for 2021 - 2022. Until these pages are fixed as per 1 September 2021 no rights can be claimed from the information which is currently contained within. In addition, due to the Corona (COVID-19) virus the courses may be adjusted. For the latest please check the course page in Brightspace.