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Decision of the Plenary Session of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation No. 1 of 1 February 2011

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Court/Judicial body: Supreme Court of the Russian Federation CRC
Provisions: General reference to the CRC
Other international provisions: General reference to the European Convention on Human Rights, the Beijing Rules, the Riyadh Principles and the Milan Plan of Action
Domestic provisions: Criminal Procedure Code of the Russian Federation, Articles 73 and 421: Procedural duty to consider the factual circumstances behind a juvenile offender’s offences and for sentencing to have a rehabilitative effect

Case summary Background and Issues: Juvenile justice, children in conflict with the law. The Court reviewed the Russian procedures and judicial practices in criminal cases involving juvenile offenders, as well as the accepted principles and norms of international law relating to the rights of juvenile offenders, and provided general resolutions and guidance on the issue.

Court reasoning: The courts have a procedural duty in cases concerning crimes committed by minors to bear in mind that their legal protection requires an investigation into the circumstances such as living conditions, upbringing, state of health and other factual data, as well as the reasons behind offending, in order to pass a just and lawful sentence with the aim of achieving maximum educational and rehabilitative objectives. When considering criminal cases concerning minors, the courts shall take into account, alongside criminal legislation of the Russian Federation, provisions of the: European Convention on Protection of Human Rights and Principal Freedoms (1950) Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) Minimum Standard Rules of the United Nations Organisation Concerning the Administration of Justice with Respect to the Underaged (the Beijing Rules, 1985) Milan Plan of Action and the Leading Principles in the Area of Preventing Crime and of Criminal Justice in the Context of Development and of the New World Economic Order (1985) Leading Principles of the United Nations Organisation for Preventing Crime Among the Underaged (the Riyadh Principles, 1990) Official documents such as the recommendations of the Ministers’ Committee of the Council of Europe on New Approaches to Juvenile Delinquency and on the Importance of Justice in the Cases of Juvenile Delinquents If an international treaty has laid down some rules other than those stipulated in the legislation of the Russian Federation, the courts shall apply the rules of the international treaty in conformity with requirements of the Criminal Procedure Code of the Russian Federation. Criminal cases concerning minors should be considered by the most experienced judges who are specially trained in the related specialisms of pedagogics, sociology, juvenile psychology, criminology, victimology and application of juvenile technologies. A juvenile offender should only be taken into custody as an extreme last resort and for the shortest time possible. When considering a petition from investigation bodies for arrest and detention of a juvenile suspect or accused, the court shall consider the necessity of taking the minor into custody, and whether it is possible to order a milder or less restrictive measure such as placing the offender under the supervision of his/her parents, a guardian or a specialist children’s home. In accordance with Article 108 of the Criminal Procedure Code of the Russian Federation and with the sixth part of Article 88 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, it is not possible to take into custody a juvenile offender below 16 years of age who is suspected or accused of committing crimes of small or medium gravity for the first time. Arrest and detention is only possible in relation to grave crimes. Juvenile offenders have the right to protect themselves in person, as well as with the assistance of a counsel of defence or a legal representative. If the minor is unable to obtain counsel under the applicable procedures, the court shall provide one. Article 425 of the Criminal Procedure Code of the Russian Federation stipulates the obligatory participation by a pedagogue or a psychologist in the interrogation of a juvenile suspect, accused or defendant of 14 to 16 years, and at the age of 16 to 18 if the minor offender has mental difficulties. Evidence obtained from the suspect, accused or defendant without participation of a pedagogue or a psychologist shall be inadmissible. The court shall ensure that interested parties such as the juvenile offender’s school, employer or other associated persons and organisations are notified of the proceedings against the offender and provided with the opportunity to testify about the juvenile offender’s circumstances. The courts shall observe the rules for the individualisation of punishment, bearing in mind that the deprivation of freedom shall not be administered to minors below the age of 16 who have committed a crime of small or medium gravity for the first time, nor to the other minors who have committed a crime of small gravity for the first time. The maximum term of detention for juvenile offenders of particularly grave crimes cannot exceed ten years. The court may order that an underage convict undergo a course of social-pedagogical rehabilitation at institutions rendering pedagogical and psychological assistance to citizens with deviations in development, and/or other correctional facilities if there is evidence of substance or other forms of abuse. In conformity with the 1985 Beijing Rules, the right to the confidentiality of information on a juvenile suspect, accused or defendant shall be ensured at all stages of the proceedings in order to prevent infliction of harm and damage to his/her reputation. The media shall be prohibited from publishing or disseminating information revealing the personality or identity of the juvenile offender.

CRIN comments: CRIN believes these resolutions are consistent with the CRC. Given the heightened vulnerability of a child in conflict with the law, it is important that judges are specially trained to conduct a thorough and child-welfare focused inquiry into the circumstances of the case, and that appropriate support is guaranteed. A minor should only be taken into custody as an exceptional measure in the last resort, and prison terms should be proportionate and for the shortest period necessary.

Citation: No. 1 of February 1, 2011 (with the amendments and additions of 9 February 9 2012, 2 April 2013)