Minors should not be fined, Justice Ministry considers

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Should children be fined for administrative offenses? The Justice Ministry believes that fines for children should be waived because they aren't effective. Experts and Saeima members of the responsible committee agree, Latvian Radio reported April 4.

For nearly 7 years now, it is recommended that children should be given "coercive measures of an educational nature" and not administrative penalties. However, administrative penalties are still frequently applied. Last year, they were more than 3,000, of which 2,000 were fines.

The most frequently imposed fine for minors is €140. Most often, these penalties are paid by parents or legal guardians. The Ministry of Justice notes - by transferring administrative liability to the shoulders of the parents, it does not comply with the principle that the person who committed the violation suffers the punishment applied.

The most common causes of children committing offenses are many: the family environment, domestic violence, school, peer pressure and others.

The application of the administrative penalty is not linked to these causes, therefore it is not effective, considers the Ministry of Justice, which calls for the abolition of fines for minors.

Ministry of Justice's State Secretary Mihails Papsujevičs said that the Ministry offers to look at the violation “as a signal that there are some difficulties in the life of the child concerned”. Infringements most commonly committed by minors are related to the use of banned substances and inappropriate behavior, but cannot be dealt with by a fine.

However, the Saeima Legal Affairs Committee, which on Tuesday, April 4, listened to the Ministry's intention to renounce penalties for children, could not offer anything as a replacement yet.

At present, coercive measures of an educational nature are a warning, an obligation to apologize to the victims, to deal with the consequences of the damage caused, and to impose an obligation on a child aged 15 and having income to pay for the damage caused, or community service, probation, and others.

Latvian SOS Children's Villages Association's Children's Interest Advocacy expert Linda Skutāne said existing coercive measures aren't effective.

“We have two young people who have committed 53 administrative violations in the past year, each. On average once a week. [..] Unfortunately, these coercive measures provided for by our law, in this case, are toothless. The biggest that applies to these young people is the counseling of narcologists. These young people are long-term users, and for them this narcologist counseling is a completely useless tool,” Skutāne said.

By waiving fines, something must certainly be found in place, experts say, otherwise, minors may have a sense of impunity.

Potential changes to the law are scheduled to be discussed in May.

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