On this, the 20th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the need to protect children’s rights continues to be of critical importance.
Today around 38* boys aged 16 and 17 are being held in prison in Ireland. The continued detention of children in St Patrick's Institution in Ireland is not in compliance with international human rights standards.
While the Children Act, 2001, was a positive step in protecting children’s rights in a criminal justice context, constitutional change is needed to further ensure the realisation of children’s rights in Ireland.
To this end, IPRT joins the Children's Right Alliance and many other organisations in calling on the Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children to recommend the need for a robust constitutional amendment to strengthen children’s rights in the Constitution.
IPRT spokesperson, Liam Herrick said, “The need to expressly protect children’s rights is especially important for those children who may not have parents or families to advocate on their behalf.
"Young people within our youth justice system are some of the most vulnerable children in our society and the need for strong legal protection of the rights of children in institutional care, including in our Children Detention Schools and in St. Patrick’s Institution has never been more urgent.
“The most important legal significance of a robust amendment to the constitution would be to ensure that in every decision taken regarding a child, the child’s best interests should be a central consideration. Decisions taken relating to the prosecution, detention and punishment of children are among the most important that can affect a child’s life. A constitutional recognition of children’s rights could have a far-reaching positive impact on children who are in conflict with the law, many of whom have fallen through the cracks of our health and social care systems.”
In addition to the best interests principle, it is also vital in the context of criminal justice and generally, that explicit recognition be given to the right of the child to be heard in decisions that affect the child. This fundamental principle is recognised by Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
*The daily snapshot included in the Irish Prison Service Annual Report 2008 records there were 38 boys (14 sixteen-year olds and 24 seventeen-year olds) in St Patrick's Institution on 5th December 2008.)
For further information, please contact:
Fíona Ní Chinnéide
Campaigns & Communications Officer
Irish Penal Reform Trust
T: +353 (0) 1 874 1400