Letter: International law on juvenile crime

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The Independent Online
Sir: Recent government and opposition statements on juvenile offenders ('Juveniles to be locked up', 3 March) appear to have ignored the United Kingdom's international legal obligations.

An underlying principle of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child together with other recent international instruments relating to juvenile justice, stress the importance of reintegration and the fulfilling of a constructive role in society. Segregation in secure units can only contribute to the child's sense of isolation and stigmatisation.

The Home Secretary's proposals regarding education and training should be offered after the commission of the first offence as a preventative measure and then should continue. International standards seek to educate children within the community and not segregate them from it.

In any event, in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, children should be deprived of their liberty only as a matter of last resort. This implies that recent statutory changes aimed at avoiding institutionalisation should be given a proper opportunity to take effect.

May we suggest that before embarking on a reversal of existing national policies, political parties advocating change should take cognisance of the legal responsibilities the UK has assumed.

Yours faithfully,

GERALDINE VAN BUEREN Director (UK), CATHERINE MUYEKA MUMMA (Kenya), CERI W. PEMBERTON (UK), ANNE-MARIE TOOTELL (UK), KATINKA TATTERSALL (The Netherlands), JUDY LOWN (Israel)

Programme on International Rights of the Child

Faculty of Law

Queen Mary and Westfield College

University of London

London, E1

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