A man from Borsodbóta had some logs valued at 3,200 forints in his wheelbarrow, when the police surrounded him, handcuffed him, and took him, along with his 17 and 19 year old sons, to jail. They kept them in jail for three days. Without taking into consideration that the 17 year old son was a minor, they interrogated him, didn’t give him proper representation, and made him sign papers without him knowing their content.
The father from Borsodbóta with four children has been unemployed for ten years, and before that, he worked as a miner for 20 years. He does not have a criminal record. His children attend school and are learning different trades. The man currently doesn’t have an income, the mother isn’t continuously unemployed and makes only 28,000 forints (about 150 dollars) per month doing odd jobs, and they receive a family allowance of 26,000 forints per month. With this money, the family of six sometimes doesn’t have enough for food, and this was why they decided to sell wood to one of their acquaintances for 3,000 forints.
Last October, the father was on his way to the woods. His two older sons naturally came with him, because it was out of question that they would abandon their father with such heavy logs to carry. They collected pieces of wood that had been left by the woods a while ago, and, with the wheelbarrow, were taking them to their friend. That was when the police appeared, looked at the logs, and immediately handcuffed them.
With an accelerated legal process, the court decided that after three days in jail, the father would have to pay a 39,000 forint fine, which was then reduced by 4,000 forints because he sat in jail for three days. One of the sons received a 19,000 forint fine, which was also reduced by 4,000 because of his three day jail-time. In addition to this, they had to pay a compensation of 30,000 forints to the forestry.
The sanctions against the father didn’t end here; he was prosecuted for endangerment of a minor, since his 17 year old son was also with him on his way to the forest.
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Those persons responsible for raising, supervising and caring for a minor, and who seriously failed to fulfill these obligations, thus hindering the minor’s physical, mental, or moral development, have committed a crime and can be punished with 1-5 years of imprisonment”– states the Criminal Code.
The court should have been examining how the active participation of the 17 year old minor in carrying the wood was endangering his physical, mental, or moral development, and whether his father seriously failed to fulfill his parental obligations. The endangerment counts as a crime only if the parent seriously failed to fulfill the responsibilities, which, according to past court cases, usually means regular or continuous misconduct.
The question is: how likely it is that a 17 year old boy will not go to the forest with his father to collect wood, after confronting a family crisis. The father’s lack of a criminal record shows that the parental example that played an important role in the child’s development was not one that promoted stealing to make a living. Therefore it is very questionable whether it can be considered endangerment of a minor to have a child take part in stealing something worth a small amount, in order to help the family make a living, once.
It can even be said that the child, who is nearly considered an adult by law, showed moral development by assessing the severity of the situation and taking part in the solution. But it is still the case that they broke the law, which is why they were fined.
The father was convicted of first degree endangerment of a minor and given one year and two months of jail time.
This scenario raises the question: how is it in the interest of the child to see his father dragged through the mire for something he did because of a financial crisis, even if his father technically broke the law.
The HCLU’s lawyer represented this man in his case and submitted an appeal against his conviction.