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Sentencing the parents: punishing the children? Qualitative research regarding the role of the child’s best interests in Belgian sentencing decisions

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Abstract
Article 3 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) states that the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration in decisions directly or indirectly affecting one or more children. According to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, this implies that the impact on the best interests of the child should be considered when sentencing parents. Belgian criminal courts are not explicitly obliged to consider the children of the accused person in the sentencing decision. However, Belgian criminal law allows for a large degree of discretion in the sentencing decision. Therefore, it is possible for judges to consider the interests of the children of the accused in the sentencing decision. At present, it is not known whether and how criminal courts consider the children of the defendant in sentencing decisions. This study started from three hypotheses: a) the lack of an explicit obligation results in insufficient consideration of the children’s interests in sentencing decisions; b) the lack of an explicit obligation results in insufficient awareness and poor knowledge on the consequences for children; c) the lack of an explicit obligation results in insufficient information on the children’s interests in individual cases. These hypotheses were researched through qualitative in-depth interviews with 17 Belgian criminal law judges. The analysis of these interviews shows that different views exist regarding such a consideration. Furthermore, respondents had different levels of insight on the topic, and many stressed that often insufficient information is available to them. Even though some level of awareness exists and the children of the accused are considered to some extent, this would not be sufficiently consistent. Therefore, it is argued that explicit obligations would be necessary to realise a children’s rights approach in sentencing parents, in accordance with article 3 UNCRC.

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MLA
Lauwereys, Heleen. “Sentencing the Parents: Punishing the Children? Qualitative Research Regarding the Role of the Child’s Best Interests in Belgian Sentencing Decisions.” Stockholm Criminology Symposium : Presentations, 2019.
APA
Lauwereys, H. (2019). Sentencing the parents: punishing the children? Qualitative research regarding the role of the child’s best interests in Belgian sentencing decisions. In Stockholm Criminology Symposium : presentations. Stockholm.
Chicago author-date
Lauwereys, Heleen. 2019. “Sentencing the Parents: Punishing the Children? Qualitative Research Regarding the Role of the Child’s Best Interests in Belgian Sentencing Decisions.” In Stockholm Criminology Symposium : Presentations.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Lauwereys, Heleen. 2019. “Sentencing the Parents: Punishing the Children? Qualitative Research Regarding the Role of the Child’s Best Interests in Belgian Sentencing Decisions.” In Stockholm Criminology Symposium : Presentations.
Vancouver
1.
Lauwereys H. Sentencing the parents: punishing the children? Qualitative research regarding the role of the child’s best interests in Belgian sentencing decisions. In: Stockholm Criminology Symposium : presentations. 2019.
IEEE
[1]
H. Lauwereys, “Sentencing the parents: punishing the children? Qualitative research regarding the role of the child’s best interests in Belgian sentencing decisions,” in Stockholm Criminology Symposium : presentations, Stockholm, 2019.
@inproceedings{8621151,
  abstract     = {Article 3 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) states that the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration in decisions directly or indirectly affecting one or more children. According to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, this implies that the impact on the best interests of the child should be considered when sentencing parents.
Belgian criminal courts are not explicitly obliged to consider the children of the accused person in the sentencing decision. However, Belgian criminal law allows for a large degree of discretion in the sentencing decision. Therefore, it is possible for judges to consider the interests of the children of the accused in the sentencing decision. At present, it is not known whether and how criminal courts consider the children of the defendant in sentencing decisions.
This study started from three hypotheses: a) the lack of an explicit obligation results in insufficient consideration of the children’s interests in sentencing decisions; b) the lack of an explicit obligation results in insufficient awareness and poor knowledge on the consequences for children; c) the lack of an explicit obligation results in insufficient information on the children’s interests in individual cases.
These hypotheses were researched through qualitative in-depth interviews with 17 Belgian criminal law judges. The analysis of these interviews shows that different views exist regarding such a consideration. Furthermore, respondents had different levels of insight on the topic, and many stressed that often insufficient information is available to them. Even though some level of awareness exists and the children of the accused are considered to some extent, this would not be sufficiently consistent. Therefore, it is argued that explicit obligations would be necessary to realise a children’s rights approach in sentencing parents, in accordance with article 3 UNCRC.
},
  author       = {Lauwereys, Heleen},
  booktitle    = {Stockholm Criminology Symposium : presentations},
  language     = {eng},
  location     = {Stockholm},
  pages        = {23},
  title        = {Sentencing the parents: punishing the children? Qualitative research regarding the role of the child’s best interests in Belgian sentencing decisions},
  year         = {2019},
}