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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 children who participate 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 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 (even in a country such as 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 children’s right to a fair trial. This resulted, among others, in the development of guidelines for child friendly justice (particularly in Europe and Africa) as well as global attention for the issue of ‘access to justice’, which aim to offer guidance on how to enable to children to participate effectively in decision-making affecting them and to remedy alleged rights violations. 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 the 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;

  • 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 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 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.

Mode of instruction

Lecture: 5 weeks of lectures of 3 hours each
Seminar: 5 weeks of seminars of 2 hours each
Excursion: field trips to a youth custodial institution and a police station.

Examination method

Written examination with short questions and essay questions: 60%
Written assignment: 40%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average.

The opportunity exists to re-take the exam and assignment. Further information will be communicated through Blackboard.


The literature is distributed through Blackboard.
Submission of papers via Blackboard using safe assignment.

Course materials

A list of all study materials will be published on Blackboard. Unless otherwise indicated, all study materials are available via the online catalogue or as a paper copy in the Leiden law Library. Where possible, all required and recommended reading materials will be made available through Blackboard.


Coordinator of the course:
Yannick van den Brink, LL.M, MA
Email address:

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