UK Falters on Children’s Rights, Says UN

by Gopalan on Oct 4 2008 11:55 AM

 UK Falters on Children’s Rights, Says UN
UK is faltering on children’s rights and some of its measures to meet juvenile crimes are insensitive, says a UN report. It also reveals there is a high level of child poverty in the country.
The Committee on the Rights of the Child wants ministers to abolish the use of Antisocial behaviour orders (Asbos) and only jail young offenders as a last resort.

It said anti-social behaviour orders and other measures, such as mosquito devices, "may violate the rights of children to freedom of movement and peaceful assembly".

The £500 Mosquito device has been installed at some 3,500 locations across the country since it first went on sale in January 2006. It emits an irritating, high-pitched sound that can only be heard by children and young people up into their early twenties, forcing them to move on.

While shopkeepers and consumers, intimidated by the unruly youth gangs congregating at shopping malls, have welcomed the mosquito device, others are critical.

Sir Albert Aynsley-Green, the Children's Commissioner for England has set up a campaign – called Buzz Off – that is calling for the Mosquito to be banned on grounds that it infringes the rights of young people.

“The use of measures such as these are simply demonising children and young people, creating a dangerous and widening divide between the young and the old, ” he says. Now the UN agency seems to have joined the chorus of opposition.

The Committee also attacked children's appearances on reality television shows and it wanted such programmes regulated to ensure their privacy was not violated.

The report contains more than 120 recommendations, 50 more than the last report six years ago.

The government said it "broadly welcomed" the report and would carefully consider its recommendations.

The UN committee said it was "concerned at the general climate of intolerance and negative public attitudes towards children, especially adolescents, which appears to exist in the UK, including in the media, and may be often the underlying cause of further infringements of their rights".

The report also concluded the age of criminal responsibility should be raised from 10 in England and Wales and eight in Scotland.
It also criticised any overuse of restraint on the young in custody, saying it should only be used to protect individuals.

Unicef UK called for the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to be incorporated into law.

David Bull, the charity's executive director, said the government had shown a growing commitment to children's rights but that "more needs to be done".

"Despite good intentions, children's rights are still not at the heart of policy-making in the UK.

"The sheer number of recommendations made in the UN Committee's

report shows the scale and urgency of the problem." Shami Chakrabarti, director of campaign group Liberty, said the report gave "lie to the notion that Britain is a place where 'every child matters'".

"The restraint techniques used in youth custody are nothing short of state-sponsored child abuse," she said.

"We weep hot tears for kids suffering all over the world but if they have the audacity to seek asylum here they can look forward to degradation and detention."

Children's Minister Beverley Hughes said she broadly welcomed the report's concluding observations, adding that the committee's recommendations would be given "the careful consideration they deserve".

"I look forward to publishing progress on our Children's Plan later in the year. This will set out ambitions and strategies for tackling many of the issues the UN Committee has highlighted," she said.

Not long ago it was reported that Antisocial behaviour orders (Asbos) were seen as "badges of honour" by offending teenagers, their parents and even some criminal justice professionals.

The Youth Justice Board said many of those involved in tackling youth offending, including magistrates, had serious reservations about their effectiveness and question how much they change the behaviour of teenage tearaways.

The Asbos are designed to prevent behaviour including theft, intimidation, drunkenness and violence by individuals and families who make life difficult for their communities.

The orders often include restrictions on entering a geographical area or shop but can include bans on specific acts, such as swearing in public. A breach can land the offender behind bars.

For various reasons, the measure has failed to stem juvenile offences, it is argued.


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