This module is a resource for lecturers
This section contains suggestions for in-class or pre-class educational exercises, while a post-class assignment for assessing student understanding of the Module is suggested in a separate section.
The exercises in the Module are designed to allow students to apply their knowledge about the international legal framework on justice for children to critically engage with the laws, policies and practices at the national or local level. In this sense, the Module promotes applied learning, and equips students with the opportunity to develop critical competencies relevant to understanding the operation of justice for children across the intersecting domains of law, policy, and practice.
The exercises in this section are most appropriate for classes of between 30 and 50 students, where students can be easily organized into small groups in which they discuss cases or conduct activities before providing feedback to the entire class. Although it is theoretically possible to have the same small group structure in large classes comprising a few hundred students, it is more challenging. The easiest way to deal with the requirement for small group discussion in a large class is to simply ask students to self-organize into groups of five or six by turning to the other students sitting close to them. When feedback is required, the lecturer should use discretion, because not all groups will be able to provide feedback every time. The lecturer should make random selections and try to ensure that all groups get the opportunity to provide feedback at least once.
All exercises in this section are appropriate for both graduate and undergraduate students. However, as students’ prior knowledge and exposure to these issues varies widely, decisions about appropriateness of exercises should be based on their educational and social context.
Exercise 1: Media analysis and brainstorming on the scope of “justice for children” [30 minutes]
This exercise comprises a pre-class activity (media scan and preliminary analysis) and a plenary class discussion.
Pre-class task: prior to attending the first class, students should be tasked with scanning the print/online media for examples of news stories and/or legal cases which engage some facet of justice for children.
Plenary discussion: depending on the size of the group, lecturers may choose to first ask students to share their news stories in pairs or groups of up to four. Lecturers could visit each group, during these discussions, and select a range of stories/legal cases that could then be presented to the plenary. Where the class size is small, and time allows, the lecturer might skip the group component of this activity and instead ask each student to briefly describe their news story, with attention to the following questions:
- How are the children represented?
- Are stereotypes used?
- What evidence is cited in the article?
- Are children’s views included?
- If the article contains images, what do these convey?
- Has there been an interference with a child/children’s rights?
- What does the child (or children) require, in terms of access to justice?
- What is the likely remedy or redress (is “justice” for the child likely to be delivered via a legal process? (In which case is this civil, administrative, criminal, or family jurisdiction – or has the matter progressed to an international jurisdiction.)
- If a legal remedy is unlikely, or inappropriate, who/what are the actors/sectors that might be involved in ensuring an effective justice response for the affected child/children?
The examples are likely to illustrate the breadth and complexity of children’s circumstances with respect to justice, and the complexity of multi-sectoral responses required to ensure effective justice solutions for children.
Lecturers may wish to review the following sample media articles, which provide varied perspectives on the issue of knife crime in the United Kingdom.
- Camber, R. (2019). “A knife to the heart of Britain: Shocking scale of youth knife crime is revealed as children with stab wounds DOUBLE in five years and knifepoint robberies rise 50%, after two more teenagers killed”. The Daily Mail. 4 March 2019.
- Shaw, D. (2019). “Reality Check: Are more teenagers carrying knives?” BBC. 31 July 2019.
Exercise 2: Restorative Juvenile Justice in Latin America – film screening and analysis [45 minutes]
Divide the class into three groups, and assign each group one of the following questions:
- What practical measures are taken, and by whom, to provide child-sensitive responses to children in conflict with the law. What are the reported/likely outcomes? Make reference to the provisions of the CRC in your response.
- How are children represented in the film? Frame your analysis in terms of the provisions of the CRC.
- Analyse the film in terms of childhood development, and ecological factors. To what extent do the restorative justice programs acknowledge/address these factors? In practical terms, are there limits to the challenges/problems that restorative justice can address?
Once topics have been assigned, screen the following short film: Restorative Juvenile Justice in Latin America - produced by the International Non-Government Organization Terre Des Hommes. (Duration 8.33 mins).
Following the film screening, allow students time to discuss and formulate their answers within their groups. Ask students to nominate a rapporteur who will present the group’s analysis to the plenary.
The lecturer may then choose to facilitate a plenary discussion that brings the three streams of analysis together. Key points that might emerge include:
- Acknowledging that children are developing, that they are subject to and shaped by their material and social conditions, recognizes the evidence-base on childhood development, the role of ecological factors, and the importance of child-sensitive responses that provide children with opportunities for reintegration (consistent with article 40(1) of the CRC).
- The representations of children, in the film, preserve children’s privacy, dignity, and their procedural rights (the captions describe the children as “accused” of committing certain crimes). Most importantly, children are given a voice (consistent with article 12 of the CRC), through which they articulate their views about justice, and about their plans for the future. These measures are consistent with a child rights approach and are necessary for a child’s reintegration and well-being for the life course.
- In situations where systemic challenges exist (high levels of violence, crime, for example) practical measures can be taken to uphold children’s rights. In this case, the implementation of child sensitive measures requires the cooperation of non-government organizations, police, parents, members of the community, and children. In listing the outcomes of these interventions, students might identify that child-sensitive restorative approaches have the potential to bring communities together, and to strengthen social cohesion – rather than to isolate victim, offender, and police in a situation of unresolved conflict. i.e. child sensitive approaches are not only in the best interests of the child, they are also in the public interest.
Exercise 3: Implementation of the CRC at the domestic level [65 minutes + 30 minutes if mini-lecture is required]
This exercise is suitable for advanced students and/or students who already have a sound understanding of the statutory and public policy landscape locally. Where students lack this existing knowledge, lecturers may choose to either:
- Present a mini-lecture on the relevant statutory and public policy landscape [30 minutes]; or
- Task students with a pre-class exercise in which they conduct research on the extent to which the local jurisdiction (at country or state level) has incorporated the provisions of the CRC into statute and/or public policy.
Having ensured the necessary prior knowledge, through one of the approaches above, assign one of the following topics to each student group (groups of 3-4, ideally). Relevant topics are:
- The minimum age of criminal responsibility
- The best interests principle
- Children’s participation rights
- Inhuman sentences
Each group is required to undertake research and prepare an oral presentation (5 mins) for delivery to the class, in which they address the following questions with respect to their assigned topic:
- To what extent is your topic addressed explicitly in the relevant law/s that apply within your jurisdiction?
- Are you familiar with case law, or media reports that pertain to your topic?
- Is the topic a subject of public debate in your jurisdiction and/or, in the broader regional/international context?
- Provide a brief analysis of the extent to which the CRC rights (relevant to your topic) are implemented/upheld within your jurisdiction.
In classes where students have access to the Internet, it may be productive to allow students to spend some of their preparation time in online research. [25 minutes for research component; approximately 40 minutes for presentations, depending of the class size and number of presentations].
Exercise 4: Data sources [30 minutes]
This guided class discussion encourages students to develop the skills, and critical capacities, to effectively appraise relevant data sources, and to identify gaps and deficiencies in current data gathering and disclosure schemes.
Students are to imagine that they have been awarded a child rights consultancy to evaluate the extent to which their country upholds children’s rights (pursuant to the CRC), with a particular emphasis on children’s access to justice.
Working in pairs, students are to devise a methodology for the project, and to list the formal data sources that they will access (possible answers might include: police records, child protection data, statute and public policy, child ombudsperson reports, NGO and other civil society reports, academic articles, media reports, children’s accounts (in the media and/or in civil society reports), reports of commissions of inquiry, coroners reports and child death reviews, legal judgments, etc. Students might also devise a methodology that includes interviews, focus groups, prison visits, etc. [10 minutes for this preparation].
Having drafted their methodology, and outlined the data sources that they will use, each pair is invited to swap their methodology with another pair, for critical review. Through this method of peer to peer evaluation, students are encouraged to critically reflect on:
- assumptions that shape methods of social research involving children; and
- gaps in data that could otherwise establish a baseline and/or monitoring function for children’s access to justice.
[10 minutes for peer to peer evaluation]
[10 minutes plenary discussion]
Exercise 5: Sector and stakeholder mapping [30 minutes]
Following an explanation and illustration of the importance of coordinated and multi-sectoral responses to ensuring children’s access, this exercise encourages students to map the various sectors and stakeholders involved in delivering justice responses to children within the local context.
Lecturers should mark a large circle on the board, in which four facts are recorded about an individual (hypothetical) child’s circumstances with respect to justice. Examples include:
- Male; 12 years of age; charged with breaking and entering; multiple placement breakdowns in foster/alternative care.
- Female; 16 years of age; charged with street solicitation of sex; pregnant; has remained completely silent since arrest.
This exercise requires that students be provided with markers and sticky notes (A5 in size to allow for readability). Students are assigned to groups of three and, asked to each record on a single sticky note, one sector/stakeholder that could play a role in ensuring the child’s access to justice. (Obvious answers include: police, judiciary, child protection, defence lawyers, parents). Less obvious answers include: child-sensitive trauma counsellors; medical professionals, social workers, child ombudspersons, teachers, the CRC Committee (in States parties), civil society actors, etc.
Once each group has recorded three different sectors/stakeholders, they are to approach the board to place their sticker in a position that reflects the role the sector/stakeholder plays in delivering justice for the child. Where duplicate suggestions are made, students should provide another answer until a full network of supports is mapped on the board. The lecturer might then, in plenary, reposition these stickers to better reflect the referral pathways and linkages between supports for children. A final stage of this exercise is the “map the gaps” in service supports for children. What supports are missing (within that jurisdiction) that would enhance a holistic approach to justice for children.
In jurisdictions where there are few supports for children, the exercise might move quite quickly to this final stage, in which students map the “ideal” network of supports for children to ensure their equal access to justice.
Next: Case studies