International Children’s Day: Nordic ‘Barnahus’ model serves interests of kids in legal trials

June 01, 2020

Earlier today, International Children’s Day, EUAM’s Senior Advisor on Prosecution, Helena Lundgren, introduced the Nordic ‘Barnahus’ model to judges in Lviv during a workshop dedicated to the protection of children.

‘Barnahus’ literally means Children’s House. It is a child-friendly, interdisciplinary and multi-agency centre for child victims and witnesses where children can be interviewed and medically examined for forensic purposes, and receive therapeutic services, in the context of criminal trials and investigations.

The ‘Barnahus’ model was created in order to avoid subjecting children to repeated interviews by multiple actors in various locations, and provide them with a safe, non-threatening, environment. Iceland was the first Nordic country to implement the concept in 1998, followed by Sweden, Norway and Denmark.

Under the model, the child is interviewed in a special room.  The interview is observed in a different room (a listening-in room) by a judge, who is formally in charge of the procedure, a social worker from the child protection authorities, the police, the prosecution, the defense attorney and the child’s advocate. The interview is videotaped and used in court. 

“A child should be heard. The Barnahus model was developed in order to create a specific legal system that responds to the special needs of children and ensures their rights,” said Ms Lundgren. “The Barnahus exists to serve the best interests of all children and to ensure due process of law.”