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Juvenile crime

Drop in youth convictions continues Swiss trend

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The number of youth convicted of a crime in 2015 fell by 2% from a year earlier and slightly more than a third of those were sentenced to community service, the government said on Monday.

Last year there were 12,100 juvenile convictions, continuing a decline since 2011, the Federal Statistics Office (FSO) reported. That compares with almost nine times as many adult convictions in the same timeframe.

“Unconditional community service continues to be the most common sentence for juveniles,” said the FSO, which put that form of sentencing at 36%. Such service can include things such as cleaning or attending courses.

Many other juveniles received only a warning or fines. Only 7% went to jail – compared with international statistics of about 10% on average.

Narcotics and property offences

The biggest share of the juvenile convictions, some 42%, were due to consumption of narcotic substances; the next largest, 31% were from “property offences”, such as theft or vandalism.

The FSO said the decline in convictions was “due solely to falling numbers in offences under the Swiss criminal code” including property offences, but there were increases in other areas such as trafficking and consumption of narcotics.

What to do with violent teenagers – punish or rehabilitate them – has been a subject of debate in recent years. In Switzerland, the official priority is to “protect and educate” young offenders, compared with other countries such as the US where the emphasis is more on how to reintegrate them.

Since January 1, 2011, criminal procedures for young people have been harmonised throughout Switzerland in the juvenile criminal procedure code.

The age of criminal responsibility is the age at which a person can be punished for an act that the law deems to be a criminal offence. Criminal responsibility begins in Switzerland at the age of ten.

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