Response to review of youth justice system
In our response to the review of the youth justice system in Northern Ireland# we advocate the development of a comprehensive youth justice policy that is set within a legal framework# embedding the principle of imprisonment as a last resort and the principle of the best interests of the child# as required by international human rights law.
We advise immediate action to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12 years. We advise that further consideration is given to raising the age in line with international standards and best practice. Other issues we highlight include:
- the need to address the high levels of remanded children and to develop appropriate accommodation to reduce to an absolute minimum the use of Woodlands as a place of safety under PACE
- further development of restorative mechanisms both as an alternative to the criminal justice system and custody; the need to tackle the serious problem of delay in dealing with cases within the youth justice system# including further consideration of introducing statutory time limits
- the need to end the practice of allowing courts to send children to Hydebank YOC# with arrangements put in place to manage their transition to Woodlands JJC
- agencies working with children and young people should improve their understanding of special needs and the impact these have on those specific groups over-represented in the youth justice system and in custody
- budgetary allocations need to be prioritised to ensure that international obligations and best practice are met in relation to young people in need# or at risk# and
- a robust oversight mechanism is required to ensure implementation of the Youth Justice Review.