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‘The role of the principle of the best interests of the child in decision-making procedures of Belgian and European criminal law actors regarding decisions concerning parents’ –  PhD research funded by the University’s Special Research Fund (BOF-mandate) – January 2017-December 2020 – Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Wendy De Bondt

The PhD project investigates the role of the child’s best interests (Article 3 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child) when sentencing parent offenders. The PhD research consists of three parts. Firstly, through qualitative in-depth interviews with Flemish criminal law judges, insight is obtained into the role of the child’s best interests in sentencing decisions in Belgium. Secondly, an analysis of South African case law on this matter is conducted. This case study shows how South African criminal courts have interpreted and applied the Constitutional Court’s 2007 guidelines regarding the sentencing of (sole) primary caregivers, which may inform those States currently debating the introduction of a similar provision within their domestic legal system. Thirdly, through an analysis of both legal sources and social sciences studies regarding the consequences of sentences imposed on parents and/or primary caregivers for the children involved, the material and procedural application of the child’s best interests principle in criminal (procedural) law is researched. The purpose of the study is to contribute to the debate on how to shape the effect of article 3 UNCRC on sentencing decisions, and more generally what the impact of that article should be in a criminal law context.


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