Varuh ДЌlovekovih pravic

A Quick and Effective Treatment of Suspicion of Violence Against a Child is Not Possible if we Turn Away

The Ombudsman is convinced that in the case of perceived potential endangerment of minors and other particularly vulnerable persons, incapable of taking care of themselves, the only possible reaction of the authorities is a quick and effective reaction. The first prerequisite for a quick and effective reaction is that the authority is even aware of the potentially endangering circumstances. Relatives, neighbours, friends, passers-by, who may or may not be silent about the things they see, often play a key role in this.

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The Human Rights Ombudsman of the Republic of Slovenia (the Ombudsman) received a letter from which it followed that violence against a minor victim of violence was not properly dealt with. The Ombudsman immediately submitted the letter for consideration to the Inspectorate of the Republic of Slovenia for Education and Sports (IRSŠŠ) and the locally competent centre for social care (CSD). The Ombudsman informed the author of the letter about this, together with the emphasis on how important it is that an individual who witnesses violence, especially against the weaker, feeble, and vulnerable, does not remain silent about what they witnessed.

The CSD immediately informed the Ombudsman that it had started the process of determining the potential endangerment of a minor. The Inspectorate of Education and Sport (IRSŠŠ) informed the Ombudsman that immediately after the report was made, a targeted inspection visit was carried out, during which a violation of Article 6 of the Act on the Prevention of Domestic Violence was discovered, since the school did not inform the CSD or the police about the circumstances until the arrival of the inspector, based on which it can be concluded that domestic violence was being perpetrated against the pupil, the CSD also did not send a written report of violence together with a record of the incident, even though it was made a month and four days ago, and the principal was also asked to report the violence several times by school expert employees. The principal's failure to immediately report the observed circumstances also constitutes a violation of Indent 23 of Paragraph 1 of Article 49 of the Organisation and Financing of Education Act. The IRSŠŠ has also already notified the police of suspected criminal offences that are being prosecuted ex officio. Due to the seriousness of the identified violation, the IRSŠŠ will propose to the School Council the dismissal of the principal on the basis of the School Inspection Act.

The Ombudsman points out the case, on the one hand, as an example of the importance of everyone's cooperation in providing protection against violence, since violence often remains unrecognised and not addressed, because people who witness it turn away. On the other hand, the Ombudsman highlights the case as an example of excellent, not just good, practice. In stark contrast to many cases where the Ombudsman recognizes procedures in the work of state bodies, holders of public authority or local authorities that take too long on an unjustified basis, it is remarkable in this particular case that the response of the IRSŠŠ was so good that the Ombudsman would always be happy to encounter it. The claims from the report were immediately examined and verified on the spot. No later than two days after the case was assigned to the IRSŠŠ, based on the intervention of the IRSŠŠ, the first meeting of the internal team to help the female pupil was held, and the IRSŠŠ without delay involved other competent and responsible persons in the consideration of the matter and, in accordance with its findings, itself takes action in all available ways.

For the minor in the case under consideration, it was decisive that an individual was found who was aware of the violence and did not turn away, as well as a state authority that dealt with the received information in a quick and efficient manner. The moment when such a suspicion of violence is discovered should be the moment when the alleged victim of violence is definitely protected from any potential continuation of violence. 21.6-5/2022