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Proposed changes to the Children's Act 2001 are unnecessary
Full Implementation of Children's Act would make proposed changes in legislation unnecessary - Ombudsman for Children
Logan outlines concerns about ASBOs in advice to Government
changes to the Children's Act 2001 are unnecessary and in some cases
may be counterproductive, according to Emily Logan, Ireland's first
Ombudsman for Children. Implementing the Act in its entirety would
prevent the need for additional legislative measures, Emily added.
Ombudsman for Children, today (Thursday), published her advice to the
Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Minister for
Children on the proposed changes to the Children Act, 2001 and outlined
her concerns on areas such as ASBOs, the age of criminal
responsibility, privacy and the Garda Diversion Programme. Emily Logan
is concerned that some of these changes will have a negative impact on
children and young people.
"My observations on the proposed
changes to the Children's Act focus on compliance by those proposals
with Ireland's international human rights obligations and the probable
effect of the proposals on the lives of children.
"The Act as
it stands, focuses on preventative measures and restorative justice
mechanisms. It is the right approach and the one which best protects
the rights of children and young people in conflict with the law, in
line with Ireland's legal obligations.
"I oppose the
introduction of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders. They are likely to create
more problems than they solve and I question the need for them in the
first place. The report on the Youth Justice Review, 2006, commissioned
by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform points out that
statistics relating to youth offending have remained stable over the
last three years.
"A significant problem with the ASBO proposal
is that children can be punished for the omissions or inability of
their parents or guardians. This is contrary to Article 2 of the UN
Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Ireland ratified in 1992.
the UK, ASBOs are recorded on a statistical basis without supporting
data about children involved. This makes it practically impossible to
understand the context or to critically evaluate the reasons ASBOs were
issued in the first place. Should the Government choose to go ahead
with ASBOs, I would urge them to closely monitor the system; to review
the children being issued with an ASBO, and to record their
circumstances, to allow a proper evaluation of the process and not
simply the recording of numbers.
"I am also unhappy with the
changes relating to The Garda Diversion Programme. The programme is a
success. It has diverted a large number of "at risk" children away from
criminal behaviour. Currently, only children who accept responsibility
for criminal behaviour can be admitted to the programme. It is now
proposed that children as young as 10 years of age and children who
admit to so called 'anti-social behaviour' be admitted to the
programme. How will it be possible to provide a programme that caters
for children involved in criminal activity together with those who have
not been engaged in criminal activity? There are clearly risks
associated with mixing children who have committed a criminal offence
with those who have not.
"I was referred the proposed amendments
by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform because my Office
has a statutory mandate to offer advice to the Government on any matter
relating to the rights and welfare of children, and in particular the
child-proofing of legislation and its probable affects. The proposed
amendments were also referred to the Irish Human Rights Commission
which published its observations today. I fully support the views set
out by the Commission in its observations and note that we have similar
concerns about compliance by the proposed changes with Ireland's human
Notes to Editors:
The Ombudsman for
Children has a statutory mandate to offer advice to the Government on
any matter relating to the rights and welfare of children, and in
particular, to child-proof legislation under section 7(4) of the
Ombudsman for Children Act, 2002.