Under planned reforms, punishment and protection for minors are to be clearly separated. RTL spoke with Charel Schmit, the ombudsman for children and youth, about the proposed changes.

The reforms bring forward an entirely different vision, which advocates prevention above all. However, with major changes also come major disagreements between the different representatives.

Schmit lamented certain attitudes within the sector of child services, especially after Marie-Claude Boulanger, the director of the central social assistance services, expressed her dissatisfaction with the fact that only minors above 14 years are subject to criminal law.

Schmit reacted by recalling that 14 years is the recommended age of the Children's Rights Commission in Geneva. After all, it is not just an average found in European countries, but also the result of a series of psychological studies.

He also touched on the fact that the Luxembourgish police has not published any statistics on youth crime rates since 2018. How is one meant to lead constructive and productive discussions without evidence-backed arguments? Boulanger's example had been a hypothetical murder by a 13-year old, but Schmit denounced this precisely because it lacked a statistical basis.

The new philosophy of the upcoming reforms clearly put the rights of minors into the foreground. However, it is no free pass either.

The new juvenile criminal law breaks with the trivialisation of certain things and holds people responsible from the age of 14. As one gets older, one is granted more responsibility, because one is more mature and can reflect on the consequences of one's actions. But the priority is always that one can learn from it and is not excluded from society.

This is a much more humane approach. Juveniles who committed bigger crimes should by no means have any contact to adults in prisons. The juvenile detention centre in Troisvierges will therefore be expanded from twelve units to twenty-four and will be taken under the wing of the prison administration.

Another important aspect of the reforms is the introduction of pre-trial detention. This is a big step in terms of children's rights, because juvenile offenders now also get all the legal guarantees that are available to adults.

The reforms are composed of three legislative texts, which the ombudsman welcomes. Schmit also emphasises that in the future more people will work in youth protection to dedicate more time to the cause.