Attending the launch of the ‘Tracing the Review’ report in Stormont today, Rachel Woods MLA commented on the lack of progress on youth justice and children’s rights issues in Northern Ireland.
The Green Party MLA for North Down, who sits on the Justice Committee, and co-sponsored the event said: “This report is highlights much of inaction on crucial youth justice issues in Northern Ireland. Although there has been positive developments on youth justice, it has been over a decade since the publication of the Youth Justice Review, and many of its recommendations remain unimplemented. Of particular importance is the low minimum age of criminal responsibility, which is currently 10 years of age.
“Northern Ireland has been called out by the UNCRC too for having the lowest age of criminal responsibility in Europe, but the Northern Ireland Executive has failed to raise it. Last year, I wrote to each Minister in the Executive, urging them to support raising the age, but I have yet to receive responses from all Ministers on their positions.
“The Justice Bill currently being considered by the Justice Committee misses many opportunities to strengthen children’s and young people's rights in Northern Ireland. Many of the provisions it used to contain were removed, including reforms of bail and remand, which formed part of the recommendations in today's report.
“The Bill also fails to offer children equal protection from physical punishment. Northern Ireland should follow the example Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland, and legislate to ban the physical punishment of children.
“We should not be criminalising our children and young people or subjecting them to physical punishment. We need to create a society based on respect, health and wellbeing, and that includes improving our legal protections for children’s rights.”
Media contact: Jack O'Dwyer-Henry (07504410770)