The UN Committee on the Rights of a Child have issued their concluding observations on children’s rights in the UK. The report raises serious concerns at the state of children’s rights in the UK and encourages it to bring its domestic legislation in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child.
The UN Committee on the Rights of a Child have issued their Concluding observations on the fifth periodic report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This is their first report on children’s rights in the UK since 2008.
The main areas of concern for children in the criminal justice system include:
- The minimum age of criminal responsibility, currently 8 in Scotland and 10 in England;
- The number of children in custody remains high, with disproportionate representation of ethnic minority children, children in care, and children with psycho-social disabilities, and detention is not always applied as a measure of last resort;
- Access to education and health services, including mental health services, is insufficient for children in custody;
- Segregation, including solitary confinement, is sometimes used for children in custody, including in Young Offending Institutions.
- Raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility in accordance with acceptable international standards;
- Ensure that children in conflict with the law are always dealt with within the juvenile justice system up to the age of 18, and that diversion measures do not appear in children’s criminal records;
- Abolish the mandatory imposition of life imprisonment for children for offences committed while they are under the age of 18;
- Establish the statutory principle that detention should be used as a measure of last resort and for the shortest possible period of time
- and ensure that detention is not used discriminatorily against certain groups of children;
- Ensure that child detainees are separated from adults in all detention settings;
- Immediately remove all children from solitary confinement, prohibit the use of solitary confinement in all circumstances, and regularly inspect the use of segregation and isolation in child detention facilities.
It made 150 recommendations for the UK with a number relating to the criminal justice system, including:
The report recommends that the UK introduce a “statutory obligation at national and devolved levels to systematically conduct a child rights impact assessment when developing laws and policies affecting children, including in international development cooperation” and “[p]ublish the results of such assessments and demonstrate how they have been taken into consideration in the proposed laws and policies”.
Read the full report here.
The report makes specific reference to the best interests of the child. The UN Committee said that it “regrets that the right of the child to have his or her best interests taken as a primary consideration is still not reflected in all legislative and policy matters and judicial decisions affecting children, especially in the area of alternative care, child welfare, immigration, asylum and refugee status, criminal justice, and in the armed forces. Furthermore, in some Overseas Territories, there is no legal provision to guarantee this right.”
Some of the issues raised by the Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) and other children’s charities were included in the UN report, see the CRAE press release here.
Louise King, Director of CRAE said:
“The UN’s verdict on the UK’s treatment of children should act as a wake-up call that much more needs to be done to prioritise children’s rights in England. We want the Government to show leadership and take concerted action to address the UN’s concerns. To ensure a fresh focus on children, a senior, Cabinet-level minister must be given responsibility for putting children’s rights where they should be – at the heart of all government decision-making. ”