Clause 53 - Aims of youth justice system

Part of Justice (Northern Ireland) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 4:45 pm ar 7 Chwefror 2002.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Sir Drefaldwyn 4:45, 7 Chwefror 2002

The amendments in the group stand in my name and those of the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh and my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mrs. Calton). Of that gang of three, I stand alone for unavoidable reasons, as my hon. Friend has a commitment that she could not get out of and the hon. Gentleman was obliged to return to Northern Ireland. It is a shame and unsatisfactory that he could not stay until this part of the debate, because I know that he wanted to be here. Nevertheless, following consultation with him, we decided that I could make the points on behalf of all three of us.

Subsection (1) states:

The principal aim of the youth justice system is to protect the public by preventing offending by children.

In the judgment of those who tabled the amendments, the principal aim of the youth justice system in Northern Ireland is to prevent offending by children and to promote the child's reintegration and assuming a constructive role in society.

Those two approaches to law and order have different principles: one is a form of prevention, the other a form of empowerment. At the heart of this and the subsequent amendments that we have tabled is a debate about how we should approach the reintegration of children and guarantee that youth justice ensures that individuals who are at risk of offending or who have offended are treated fairly.

At the heart of our concerns lie the criticisms made by organisations such as the Children's Law Centre and Include Youth, which are gravely concerned that the balance in this part of the Bill is not right. In addition, a heavy body of evidence from international covenants and agreements suggests that we must think again about how this part of the Bill is phrased.

I shall use amendment No. 223 to discuss the underlying principles, so that we do not need to keep returning to them and can debate the specific intentions behind later amendments.