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Young paedophile hunters in juvenile court: 'A criminal record means being 3-0 down'

Ten underage boys are due to appear before a juvenile court. They are accused of luring and attacking nine men whom they believed were paedophiles. Last October, one attack cost a 73-year-old former teacher from Arnhem his life.

Mariëlle Bruning

What will the juvenile court take account of in this case? 'Just like cases involving adults, the first consideration will be the evidence,’ says Professor of Child Law Mariëlle Bruning on Dutch news site de Gelderlander. 'And did they actually do it? It would be surprising if these boys have confessed to their part in the crime. Usually in such proceedings you see youths in particular adamantly denying what they are accused of, even if camera images prove otherwise. Youth crime has declined sharply. The offences committed, on the other hand, are clearly more serious – something the juvenile courts have also noticed. Children who have never come into contact with the police or the justice system are now appearing in court accused of serious acts of violence.'

The maximum sentence for juvenile suspects is two years’ imprisonment. Research has taught us that little good comes of detention. ‘So that’s not the preferred option’, says Bruning. 'A community sentence is often given, and treatment started to handle aggression. All young offenders deserve a second chance.'

If convicted, these boys will have a criminal record that can create serious obstacles in the future. 'It can exclude them from traineeships or make employers decide not to hire them. There are professions where it is not permitted to have a criminal record, for example with public bodies. That said, it does not mean that later on a certificate of conduct (in Dutch: Verklaring Omtrent Gedrag (VOG)) will always be refused. This would depend on the crime and the punishment. A sex crime will remain on your criminal record for life. Aggravated assault also stays on your record for a long time. In any case, a criminal record means that you set out in life being 3-0 down.’

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