Joint Committee On Human Rights Tenth Report


General, Procedural and Structural Issues
1.We recommend that the UK's next periodic report under the UNCRC should be prepared with much fuller involvement of children and young people should be structured to show—
the general principles of Government policy and action in the UK related to each of the Articles of the Convention;
a report on the activities relating to children's rights issues, separately, of each central government department together with relevant NDPBs and inspectorates related to each department, and each of the devolved administrations, and some effort to capture related activities at local government level;
a specific response to each of the recommendations in the UN Committee's previous Concluding Observations; and
a plan of strategic action in relation to children's rights for the coming five years, indicating measures of success against which implementation can be judged. (Paragraph 13)
2.We recommend that the UK's next periodic report under the UNCRC should be prepared with much fuller involvement of children and young people. (Paragraph 15)
3.We recommend that objective data on progress towards the elimination of child poverty should be included in the next periodic report. (Paragraph 16)
4.We recommend that the Government's forthcoming overarching strategy for children and young people includes specific reference to the rights, principles and provisions of the Convention, and explains how these underpin its goals. (Paragraph 19)
5.We do not accept that the goal of incorporation of the Convention into UK law is unrealisable. We believe the Government should be careful not to dismiss all the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child as purely "aspirational", and that children will be better protected by incorporation of at least some of the rights, principles and provisions of the Convention into UK law. (Paragraph 22)
6.We recommend, particularly in relation to policy-making, that Government demonstrate more conspicuously a recognition of its obligation to implement the rights under the Convention. (Paragraph 25)
7.We recommend that the Government consider incorporating child impact assessments in the explanatory notes to Government Bills. (Paragraph 27)
Children and the Criminal Justice System
8.We recommend that the age of criminal responsibility be increased to 12 years. (Paragraph 38)
9.We urge the Government to re-examine, with renewed urgency, sentencing policy and practice (and in particular the use of detention and training orders) and alternatives to custodial sentences, with the specific aim of reducing the number of young people entering custody and with a commitment to implementing Articles 37(b) and 40(4) of the Convention to the fullest extent possible. (Paragraph 41)
10.We share the concern of the UN Committee that rehabilitative opportunities in young offender institutions are inadequate to meet the requirements of Article 40.1 of the CRC. We recommend that the Government initiate a review of the range of rehabilitative opportunities available to those in young offender institutions. (Paragraph 45)
11.We recommend that the Government, in its response to this report, set out the achievements of the safer custody strategy in reducing suicide and self harm amongst juveniles in detention, and its strategy for the further elimination of these incidents. (Paragraph 49)
12.The level of physical assault and the degree of physical restraint experienced by children in detention in our view still represent unacceptable contraventions of UNCRC Articles 3, 6, 19 and 37. These statistics do not provide reassurance that the Prison Service is implementing fully its responsibilities to respect the rights of children in custody. (Paragraph 52)
13.We recommend the amendment of the Children Act at an early opportunity, to place a duty on the Prison Service, as well as on local authorities, to apply the Children Act to children in detention on a statutory footing. Measures must also be taken to make a reality of the obligation which has now been placed on social services. (Paragraph 55)
14.We recommend that, as a matter of urgency, the Government bring forward legislative proposals to provide children in custody with a statutory right to education and access to special needs provision equal to that enjoyed by all other children. (Paragraph 59)
15.We recommend that the Government reinforce its efforts to ensure there are sufficient suitable places under local authority care to allow the removal of all girls under 17 from prison custody into local authority secure accommodation by the end of 2003, and so enable the reservation relating to Article 37(c) of the Convention to be withdrawn. (Paragraph 62)
16.We recommend that the Government revisit the idea of completely separating the organisation responsible for the custody of offenders under the age of 18 from the Prison Service. These young people should be looked after by a group of people whose outlook is firmly grounded in a culture of respect for children's human rights, devoted to rehabilitation and care. (Paragraph 65)
Care and Protection
17.We stress the need for the Government to invest more energy into culturally sensitive, educative approaches for the effective eradication of the practice of female genital mutilation. (Paragraph 70)
18.We recommend that the Government systematically collect and analyse representative data on violence against children, including data collected from children themselves, which should seek to include: the age and sex of the child, the nature of the violence, by whom it was allegedly committed, whether a prosecution was initiated and if so what the outcome was. (Paragraph 79)
19.We recommend that statistics record whether the defence of reasonable chastisement was invoked in cases of violence against children brought to the courts. (Paragraph 80)
20.We recommend that the Government demonstrate its commitment to the equal treatment of all children by withdrawing the reservation to the Convention on the Rights of the Child relating to immigration and nationality. (Paragraph 87)
21.We welcome the Government's decision to ratify the Optional Protocol on Children in Armed Conflict, but are concerned at the extent to which the commitment to keep under 18s in the Armed Forces out of combat zones is undermined by the terms of the Declaration made on signature. (Paragraph 88)
22.We recommend that in its response to this report the Government set out its assessment of the extent to which its inclusion in the national policing plan has affected the resources devoted to child protection, and how it intends to monitor the resources devoted to this area in the future. (Paragraph 89)
23.We would welcome information from the Government's response to the UN Committee's recommendation that legislation be reviewed to ensure children who are sexually exploited are not criminalised, and its view of the circumstances in which it is proper to penalise children and young people for sexual activity more generally. (Paragraph 90)
24.We look forward to early legislative action and strongly support the signing and ratification of the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography by the UK. (Paragraph 91)
Civil Rights and Freedoms
25.We conclude that the time has come for the Government to act upon the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child concerning the corporal punishment of children and the incompatibility of the defence of reasonable chastisement with its obligations under the Convention. We do not accept that the decision of the Government not to repeal or replace the defence of reasonable chastisement is compatible with its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. (Paragraph 111)

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