9th February 2023
Following the recent examination of Ireland under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC) have released their Concluding Observations today (9 February 2023).
The recommendations come on foot of IPRT’s attendance at the UN CRC in Geneva last month, where we highlighted the need for urgent Government action on youth justice and children with a family member in prison in Ireland.
While it is disappointing that there is no express mention of children with a family member in prison as a group in need of particular protection, as advocated by IPRT, we welcome a number of the recommendations made. These include the need for the State to incorporate the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child into national legislation (echoing a similar recommendation in IPRT’s Piecing It Together: Supporting Children and Families with a Family Member in Prison in Ireland (2021) report) and the recognition of children from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds throughout the report.
Importantly, the UN CRC has also drawn attention to a number of areas of concern in respect of child justice, in paragraphs 44 and 45 of their Concluding Recommendations. Specifically, the UN CRC has stated:
The Committee remains seriously concerned about the low age of criminal responsibility, access of children to justice, the insufficient training of relevant officials, the use of detention and the over-representation of children belonging to minority groups therein, the limited use of non-custodial measures throughout the State party, racial profiling of children by law enforcement and insufficient measures for ensuring the social reintegration of children leaving the justice system.
IPRT particularly welcomes the following recommendations made by the UN CRC, urging the State to:
Raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years of age;
Ensure that children below the age of 18 are not prosecuted as adult offenders, without exception;
Consider replicating the child justice court model in Dublin throughout the State, with a view to ensuring that all children in the State have access to a child justice court and/or specialised judges and prosecutors;
Actively promote non-judicial measures, such as diversion, mediation and counselling, for children accused of criminal offences, and, wherever possible, the use of non-custodial sentences for children, such as probation or community service;
Ensure that detention is used as a measure of last resort and for the shortest possible period of time and that it is reviewed on a regular basis, with a view to its withdrawal, and address the over-representation of children belonging to minority groups in detention.
Media release: IPRT calls for action in amending the Children Act 2001, as rights of children comes under UN spotlight
IPRT’s report: Piecing It Together: Supporting Children and Families with a Family Member in Prison in Ireland (2021)
UN Committee for the Rights of the Child full Concluding Obebservations here.
Children’s Rights Alliance press release on UN CRC Concluding Observations here.
Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort.