Clause 53 - Aims of youth justice system

Part of Justice (Northern Ireland) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 5:00 pm ar 7 Chwefror 2002.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Sir Drefaldwyn 5:00, 7 Chwefror 2002

Such is the reverence and awe with which some hon. Members regard the United Nations convention on the rights of the child that I am not surprised that they want to gag me. I know the hon. Member for Rayleigh (Mr. Francois) well, and have great affection for him. I hope that he does not really want to gag me, but I assure him that I do not intend to press amendment No. 223 to a Division.

I am using the amendment as a vehicle to put on record some important considerations that come directly from that convention and others. It will provide a basis for debates on subsequent strings of amendments, many of which were tabled by my hon. Friend and me. I remind the Committee that I am doing this to avoid duplication, so that I do not have to keep mentioning the conventions later. I want to move the Committee on as best I can. I shall need to mention a few other elements from the conventions. I hope at least to explain my motives. I see the hon. Member for Rayleigh nodding; that is a relief.

Article 12 of the United Nations convention on the rights of the child provides:

States parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.

It goes on to say:

For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or though a representative or an appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of national law.

Article 14 states:

States Parties shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

I shall come back to that later. I assume that hon. Members have access to the document and can read it at leisure. I shall provide free copies for those who want them. It continually assumes that treating the child with respect and dignity and empowering and reintegrating the individual is the best way to prevent problems from arising in the future.

We should give more regard to the UN convention on the rights of the child than is suggested in the crucial first statement in clause 53. The other evidence that I have with me is legion. The UN rules for the protection of juveniles deprived of their liberty state that the first fundamental perspective is—