PRESS RELEASE BY THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT: Children have the right to be heard

In light of today’s swearing-in ceremony of new members of the Judiciary, and World Children’s Day celebrated yesterday, President of Malta Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca reminded those present that children have the right to access to justice, and the right to be heard, even in the legal context. This was said in reference to Article 12 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child of the United Nations, agreed and signed upon by practically all leaders of the world.

President Coleiro Preca said that the environment surrounding the child in Court also has to reflect this right. The child should be given the right protection and dignity, adding that, very often children are left waiting in the corridors of the Courts alongside the relatives of the accused.

Some cases involving children are not decided in one sitting, thus causing unnecessary emotional and psychological anxiety, the President explained.

With reference to these examples, President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca proposed that Malta adopts a similar model to the Children’s House model, created in Iceland, where children are taken to a neutral safe house. In this safe house environment, the child gives his or her statement to one professional, with stakeholders in the case listening in, without even meeting the child. This method is very crucial to the psychological healing process of the child.

The President also referred to, and presented copies of the Council of Europe guidelines on child-friendly justice, which have been endorsed by the European Union, to remind all stakeholders in the Judiciary system including the Executive, of these same guidelines.

Source: Government of Malta.