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 hon. Gentleman might like to give an example, because I cannot immediately think of one. He is perhaps suggesting that the empowerment of an individual or his reintegration

into society is not in the best interests of society or, alternatively, that allowing an individual to break the law is in his best interests. That would probably lead to a debate about definitions, although I am not inviting the Committee to go further than it must into such a debate. In the long term, however, it will almost always be in the interests of the child and of society to take account of the body of covenants laid out in amendment No. 223.

If the hon. Member for Isle of Wight takes a different view, I shall be interested to hear it, because my mind is open. Speaking for myself, my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle and the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh, however, it is clear that the amendment is synergistic and seeks to combine the interests of the individual and those of society. That is pretty much the starting point for many of the documents mentioned in the amendment, many of which are spawned by the United Nations.

I want to quote from those documents, to which the United Kingdom must have serious regard. The preamble to the UN convention on the rights of the child states:

childhood is entitled to special care and assistance . . . Recognizing that the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.

I shall not read the entire convention, but statements all the way through draw on the assumption that handling the individual in an empowering fashion will also tackle the problems created by youth offending. Article 3.1 states:

In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.