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Thursday, 7 March, 2002, 14:52 GMT
Report highlights children's rights
A report looks at children's rights in custody
A report looks at children's rights in custody
The results of an investigation into the care of children in custody has been published by the Human Rights Commission in Northern Ireland.

The report entitled In Our Care says the government must urgently produce a strategy to reduce the number of youngsters being held on remand.

It says many are too young to be in custody and raises concerns over those in solitary confinement.

The report, published on Thursday, is the result of more than 20 months of looking at how the rights of children in custody in the province measure up against international law.

Chief commissioner Brice Dickson said: "New legislation and the development of new custodial accommodation for children present a tremendous challenge.

"Human rights provide a framework for addressing this challenge."

What the report says

  • International human rights principles relating to children in custody are "inadequately reflected in law, policy and practice".

  • There is a "lack of consistency" in the level of rehabilitation work carried out in juvenile justice centres.

  • The operation of the child protection process in relation to children in custody "does not provide" adequate protection for children.

  • Mental health services for children in custody are "seriously inadequate" with a "potential to endanger children's health and put lives at risk".

  • Children are not getting the level of health and educational services to which they are entitled.

    The report suggests such responsibility should move from the Northern Ireland Office to devolved departments.

    The investigation into the care of children, aged between 10 and 16, in juvenile justice centres began in May 2000.

    At that time, there were three centres in operation - St Patrick's in west Belfast which is now closed, and in County Down, Rathgael near Bangor and Lisnevin at Millisle, which is a secure centre.

    Rationalisation

    Professor Brice Dickson said the investigations found that Lisnevin's main use was as a holding centre, "rather than a place of rehabilitation".

    In March 2000, the Criminal Justice Review recommended that Lisnevin should close and the government subsequently announced plans to rationalise the juvenile justice estate.

    It said one justice centre, housing boys and girls, should be built on the Rathgael site.

    It is thought this rationalisation will result in the number of places decreasing from 110 to 40.

    Report author Linda Moore said: "The vast majority of children who go into custody - once they are released - will go on to re-offend.

    "So the system is clearly not meeting its job of rehabilitating those children and helping them to play a useful role in society."

    Probation Board Chief Executive Oliver Brannigan denied the system was failing young people.

    However, he added: "This report is very timely because we are having discussions within organisations, and between organisations, on how we can deliver a service to young people in the criminal justice system."

  •  WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    BBC NI's Julie McCullough:
    "The report recognises staff are doing positive work"
    See also:

    11 Nov 00 | UK
    Report rebukes youth jail
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