Penalties for juvenile offenders

Juveniles aged 12 to 17 who commit an offence are penalised under juvenile criminal law. The court may also apply juvenile criminal law to adults aged 18 to 22 years.

No prosecution of children under 12

Children under the age of 12 cannot be prosecuted. If a child commits a minor offence, for instance theft or vandalism, the police will talk to the parents. They may also send the child to the youth care office, which will either provide counselling or refer them to other services. If a child under 12 really gets out of hand, the court will intervene by, for example, appointing a family supervisor to monitor the child.

HALT programme

Juveniles who commit minor offences may be referred to the HALT juvenile crime prevention programme. This provides them with the opportunity to put right what they have done wrong. They can, for instance, apologise to the victims and pay for any damage done. If they fulfil their obligations and complete their HALT programme successfully, they will not have a criminal record.

If a juvenile refuses to take part in the HALT programme or does not complete it successfully, their case is referred to the public prosecutor. This will usually result in prosecution.

Alternative sanctions for juveniles

An alternative sanction for juveniles consists of a community service order (unpaid work), a training order (a training project) or a combination of the two. The Child Protection Board supervises juveniles who have received alternative sanctions.

Youth detention

Juveniles who have been sentenced to youth detention are sent to a young offenders’ institution. The maximum sentence for juveniles aged 16 or 17 is two years. For juveniles aged 12 to 15 the maximum is one year.

While in youth detention they attend school and are given extra lessons in, for instance, social skills and anger management.

Youth protection and custody order

Some juveniles require intensive treatment and counselling to avoid repeat offending, for instance because they suffer from a behavioural disorder. In such cases the court can impose a ‘PIJ order’ for placement in a youth protection and custody institution.

A PIJ order is valid for at least three years and may be extended to a maximum of seven years. During the final year, the juvenile is allowed out under certain conditions (conditional lifting of the order). They are then monitored by the youth probation service.

Overnight detention

Overnight detention is a form of provisional detention. The juveniles go to school during the day and are held in a young offenders’ institution outside school hours and overnight. This allows them to continue their studies or work

Behavioural programme order

What happens if a custodial sentence is too severe, but a suspended sentence would be too light? In that case a behavioural programme order (gedragsbeïnvloedende maatregel, GBM) can be imposed on the juvenile. A GBM consists of one or more training or treatment sessions, such as aggression training or a course on how to stay off drugs and alcohol. The youth probation service monitors the progress of the GBM.

Other penalties and non-punitive orders for juveniles

Other possible penalties and non-punitive orders in juvenile criminal law are:

  • confiscation of property (such as scooters) and goods that have been obtained illegally (for instance by theft or receiving stolen goods);
  • payment of a fine or damages.

Adolescent criminal law for young offenders aged 16 to 22

As of 1 April 2014, young offenders aged 16 to 22 can be tried either as a juvenile or as an adult, under adolescent criminal law. This allows the court to take the offender’s development into account. Some juveniles need a tough approach, while others benefit more from guidance, even though they may be older.