Juveniles aged 12 to 18 years, who have been apprehended by the police for vandalism, theft (e.g. shoplifting) or nuisance have a choice between the criminal justice system and the Halt programme. If they decide to take the Halt programme they can right their wrongs whilst avoiding contact with criminal justice authorities. The Dutch Public Prosecution Service (OM) has laid down rules for the content and scope of the Halt programme (cf. Regulations).
The Halt programme has a high success rate: over 90% of the juveniles complete the Halt programme successfully. A successful Halt programme requires that:
- juveniles and their parents accept such participation;
- juveniles comply in full with the arrangements;
- juveniles have no serious, underlying problems.
Key elements of the programme are:
- better and closer parent involvement;
- young offenders being obliged to offer apologies;
- closer personal contact with juveniles.
Halt strives to involve parents as much as possible as this involvement will influence the learning process of juveniles in a positive way. Parents are involved in the process from the very moment the juvenile is referred to Halt. In turn, Halt helps parents develop their skills to prevent their child from showing criminal conduct in the future. Parents are asked to stay closely involved when their child needs to offer apologies for and repay the damage done.
Having juveniles offer their apologies is part of the new compulsory approach. Halt helps them in finding the best way to do this and involves their parents in the process, since offering an apology turns out to be quite a difficult task for young people.
Victims who have suffered damage must somehow be remedied. Juveniles are responsible for their behaviour and must not only apologise for the damage they have caused but also compensate for it. Halt will help and mediate in this situation.
The objectives of the Halt programme are confirmation of moral standards, retribution, redress for victims and changing attitudes, if relevant.
The approach means that juveniles with no underlying problems can participate in a basic Halt programme aimed at confirmation of moral standards, retribution and redress.
A targeted learning assignment can be used for juveniles who run a limited risk of re-offending. The learning assignment should therefore be geared to tackling the relevant problem. Halt and the Child Care and Protection Board will work together in refining the learning assignments.
Juveniles showing multiple risk factors will be referred to the Youth Care Agency.