Wednesday, 7 April 2010

CCJHR Seminar - Children's rights: The Proposed Constitutional Amendment

The Centre for Criminal Justice and Human Rights at UCC is pleased to announce the following seminar:

Children’s Rights: The Proposed Constitutional Amendment

Thursday April 15, 12.00-2.30 pm

Venue:
Room LG 52
Cavanagh Pharmacy Building
College Road
Cork

Speakers

The seminar will be chaired by Dr Ursula Kilkelly.

Light refreshments will be provided.

A limited number of places are available, so please register your interest in attending by e-mailing conor.omahony@ucc.ie.

2 Hours of CPD points are available for attendance at this event.

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Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Using the CRC to protect the child’s rights in youth crime in England and Wales

This blog post was contributed by Dr Kathryn Hollingsworth, Senior Lecturer in Public Law at King's College London

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is not domestically enforceable in England and Wales, but its profile – and the profile of children’s rights generally - has been raised in recent years thanks to the campaigning efforts of NGOs such as the Children’s Rights Alliance for England, the Howard League for Penal Reform, and UNICEF. On 19th November 2009 a private member’s bill, The Children’s Rights Bill 2009, had its first reading in the House of Lords. The Bill, if passed, will have the effect of incorporating the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into UK domestic law, using procedures which mirror those set out in the Human Rights Act 1998 by which the European Convention on Human Rights was ‘brought home’ to the UK.

The chances of the Children’s Rights Bill making its way onto the statute book are slim. But that does not mean that the CRC has no place in English law. In the last five years, the judiciary in England and Wales have increasingly drawn on the CRC in order to interpret the rights of children in domestic law. Lady (previously Baroness) Hale and Lord Justice Munby have been particularly instrumental in this regard. This has had an important and positive impact on the protection of children’s rights, especially in the youth crime context.

The leading decision is R (on the application of R) v Durham Constabulary [2005] UKHL 51, where Baroness Hale made it clear that the CRC must be used to interpret the meaning of the child’s enforceable rights under the ECHR. The case concerned the system of diversion in England and Wales and specifically the question of whether the absence of a requirement for a child to consent to a reprimand or warning constituted a breach of the child’s Article 6 ECHR right. Baroness Hale drew on Article 40(3)(b) and 40(4) CRC, as well as the Beijing Rules and the Riyadh Guidelines, and expressed her ‘grave doubts’ as to whether the system of diversion in England and Wales complied with the CRC (because of its rigidity and because it propels the child more quickly through the criminal justice system). Crucially, however, Baroness Hale pointed out that the lack of a requirement to gain the child’s consent before being issued with a final warning did not breach the child’s enforceable rights under the ECHR.

Despite the unfavourable outcome for the child in this case, Baroness Hale’s dicta is permeating through into other cases. One area of youth crime where the child’s CRC rights are of particular importance is where the child is detained in a custodial institution. Here the CRC can be used to emphasise the child’s status as child – the need to care for the child as a child rather than as a ‘prisoner’. Article 3 CRC can be especially useful here. For example, Mr Justice Munby (as he was then) drew on the CRC in his landmark judgment in R (on the application of Howard League) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2002] EWHC 2497. In particular, the child-specific obligations such as Article 3 CRC imposed ‘on the Prison Service positive obligations to take reasonable and appropriate measures’ designed to ensure that children in YOIs are treated with humanity and with respect for their dignity, and that they are not subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment. In particular, when balancing the interests of the child against the wider interests of the community and other inmates, Mr Justice Munby argued that regard should be had to the inherent vulnerability of children in a YOI, and also to the principle that the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration. This approach was followed very recently by the Court of Appeal in R (C) v Secretary of State for Justice [2008] UKCA Civ 882, a judicial review case brought to challenge the regulations which allowed restraint to be used in Secure Training Centres for the purposes of good behaviour and discipline. In this case, the application was successful and the regulations were quashed for breaching Articles 3 and 8 ECHR, both of which were interpreted by taking account of the CRC.

These are just a handful of cases where the CRC has been used successfully to protect the child’s rights in the prison context. But, the Convention has certainly not proved to be a panacea. Even where it is used by the judiciary as an interpretative tool, it can only extend as far as the child’s rights in domestic law or under the ECHR allow. For example, in R (on the application of DT) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2004] EWHC 13 a girl was being moved from a Local Authority Secure Children’s Home into an adult female prison because of shortage of space. The judge held that an apparent breach of Article 37(c) CRC was irrelevant here (not least because the UK had derogated from that provision but nonetheless it is not directly enforceable) but that the girls’ article 8 ECHR rights were engaged, and the content of these rights could be interpreted in light of the CRC – though only Article 3 because of the derogation from Article 37(c). Although the judge agreed that her Article 8(1) rights were engaged when she was transferred to an adult prison, the restriction was deemed justifiable under Article 8(2) ECHR. More recently in R (on the application of London Secure Services) v Youth Justice Board [2009] EWHC 2347, a JR challenge was brought against the Youth Justice Board for its decision not to re-commission 28 beds in local authority secure homes (the preferred type of institution from a children’s rights perspective for children detained in the secure estate). The challenge was not successful despite Mr Justice Forbes claiming to take into account the child’s rights under the CRC in determining the content of the relevant ECHR rights.

There appears to be only so much the judiciary can do to protect the child’s CRC rights in youth crime. But, although limited, the willingness of the judiciary to draw on the CRC to interpret the meaning of a child’s rights is particularly crucial given the Conservative Party’s pledge to repeal the Human Rights Acta if they are elected in 2010. If this happens, the rights under the ECHR will no longer be domestically enforceable and the judgements of the European Court of Human Rights will presumably decline in relevance to rights protection in England and Wales. This could have serious implications for children in trouble with the law for three reasons: firstly because the Tory’s motivation for replacing the HRA in part comes from the fears that the Human Rights Act is a ‘criminal’s charter’ – it may be the rights of ‘criminals’ which are thus most restricted in any new bill. Secondly, the ECHR has been an invaluable tool in protecting the rights of children detained in custodial institutions. And thirdly, the justification Lady Hale gave for interpreting the child’s ECHR rights in light of the CRC in the Durham Constabulary case was that this is the approach taken by the European Court of Human Rights.

It is crucial that the CRC is seen as an over-arching and consistent presence that is founded in the UK’s ratification of the Treaty and not in the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. If so, the English judiciary can continue to interpret a child’s rights in light of the CRC, regardless of the source of those rights – whether it be the ECHR or a domestic bill of rights. Clearly, the reach of such an approach will depend on the particular bill of rights in force but at the least it should help to ensure that the progress made in the interpretation and enforcement of the child’s rights in area of youth crime in the last 5 years is not lost, even if the Human Rights Act is.

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Ireland and the CRC at 20

This blog post was contributed by Dr Ursula Kilkelly, Co-Director of the CCJHR.

On 20 November 1989 the General Assembly of the United Nations unanimously adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention thus reached its 20th anniversary last month with reviews as to its impact taking place around the world. In Ireland, a party to the Convention since 1992, the Convention’s birthday has also been celebrated. Much progress has been achieved in the implementation of Convention provisions since ratification and many of the reforms can be traced back to the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which has reviewed Ireland’s progress in this regard on two occasions – in 1998 and 2006. After a slow start, Ireland adopted the National Children’s Strategy in 2000, established the Office of Ombudsman for Children in 2002 and put in place a longitudinal study on children to better understand children’s lives. Structural reform has seen the appointment of a super-junior Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, with a seat at the cabinet table, and the establishment of a government department dedicated to children’s issues – the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. Additional strides in the advancement of children’s issues include the adoption of the National Play Strategy and in youth justice, the adoption of the Children Act 2001, the National Youth Justice Strategy and the establishment of the Irish Youth Justice Service. Many of the advances in the reduction of child poverty, the improvement of special needs education and the modernisation of the youth justice system were possible due to the allocation of increased resources to these areas. The severe economic conditions will undoubtedly see many of these investments rolled back. This is when the legal commitments in the Convention to take all measures to secure all rights to children become especially important.

On the negative side of the balance sheet, there are still many outstanding areas where the Convention has clearly had no or little impact. There is no 24 hour social work service for children at risk and no strategy to combat violence against children; children struggle to access any mental health services; they are rarely heard when the courts decide matters that affect them in family law and criminal proceedings, and there are many especially vulnerable groups of children – separated children, Traveller children and children who are homeless – who struggle to enjoy even the most basic of human rights. These barriers include a lack of investment, a failure to provide dedicated supports and services for children and a general invisibility of children in the making of law and policy. As research for the Ombudsman for Children showed in 2007, there are still many significant barriers in the way of children realising their Convention rights in Irish law, policy and practice.

More generally, the question still remains as to whether the Government and indeed Irish society have really engaged with the idea that individual children are autonomous rights-holders. Given that two decades have passed since the Convention was adopted, can we say with confidence that we take children’s rights seriously? In this regard, the Committee on the Rights of the Child recently reiterated its criticism that Irish law and policy does not reflect the rights-based approach set out in the Convention; nor are children heard in decisions that affect them. Critical to the development of a children’s rights culture is the integration into law and policy of the Convention’s guiding principles – the best interests principle, non-discrimination and the child’s right to be heard. Yet, notwithstanding the recommendations of numerous bodies, and the commitment of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern over two years ago to put the child at the heart of the Irish Constitution, proposals for meaningful constitutional reform are still outstanding. This, above all else, is a very worrying sign that regardless of our international commitments and daily reminders of the appalling treatment that children received in our name, the Government is not willing to take the ultimate step to ensure that children’s rights will no longer be ignored or underplayed.

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Friday, 20 November 2009

The UNCRC and the Politics of Children’s Rights Reform in Ireland

Dr Conor O’Mahony, CCJHR, UCC

For over two decades now, there has been a steady and growing body of expert opinion in Ireland calling for the constitutionalisation of children’s rights in general and the welfare principle under Article 3 of the UNCRC in particular. In 1993, the author of the Kilkenny Incest Investigation Report, Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness, stated that the effect of Supreme Court jurisprudence on the interplay between Article 41 of the Irish Constitution and the statutory welfare principle is to “render it constitutionally impermissible to regard the welfare of the child as the first and paramount consideration in any dispute as to its upbringing or custody between parents and third parties such as health boards without first bringing into consideration the constitutional rights of the family.” In 1996, the Report of the Constitution Review Group specifically recommended the explicit statement of the welfare principle in the text of the Constitution, along the lines of Article 3(1) of the UNCRC. This call was echoed by the Children’s Rights Alliance in a report published the following year, and welcomed in 1998 by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child , who recommended that the Irish Government take all appropriate measures to accelerate the implementation of the recommendations of the Constitution Review Group. Numerous reports and academic publications have continued to campaign for this reform.

This backdrop would suggest that there was broad agreement on the need to constitutionalise Article 3 of the UNCRC. However, the reform proposals that ultimately emerged from the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution Tenth Progress Report: The Family in 2006 and the Twenty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution Bill are significantly weaker than the wording of Article 3 (see Kilkelly & O’Mahony, “The Proposed Children’s Rights Amendment: Running to Stand Still?” [2007] 2 Irish Journal of Family Law 19). The timeline of developments on this issue shows that political momentum and opinion, having agreed with the views of experts and academic commentators for a significant period of time, has more recently shifted away from a sincere commitment to ensure that children’s rights should be the subject of genuinely stronger constitutional protection. Something along the way has clearly caused the politicians, particularly in the two main political parties, to get cold feet.

The weak wording currently being proposed can be traced in part to some of the public submissions received by the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution when preparing their Tenth Progress Report: The Family. The invitation for submissions put the question to the public: “Does the Constitution need to be changed in view of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child?” 22 of the submissions reproduced in the appendices were in favour of enhancing the constitutional protection for children’s rights, generally by amending the Constitution to include a provision along the lines of Article 3 of the UNCRC. These submissions came from a variety of sources. Submissions from State agencies included the Irish Human Rights Commission, the Ombudsman for Children, the Adoption Board, the Heath Services Executive and the Department of Social and Family Affairs. Several of the political parties, including the Labour Party, were represented, as were organisations and charities working with children and youths such as the ISPCC, Barnardos, the National Youth Federation and the Irish Foster Care Association. The professional body for solicitors, the Law Society, also made a submission in favour of such an amendment, as did the main Protestant denomination, the Church of Ireland.

Set against this is a selection of 27 submissions which stridently opposed the constitutionalisation of children’s rights, or any part of the UNCRC, or any attempt to alter the balance of rights as between the family unit and individual members of the family. When the source of these submissions is examined, it can be seen that there is a striking degree of overlap in terms of the people and groups represented by them. 10 of the submissions which were reproduced on this side of the debate came from organisations expressly identified as religiously based. Three of these were from Catholic organisations: one from the Conference of the Religious of Ireland, an umbrella organisation representing 138 Catholic congregations in Ireland, as well as separate submissions from two other Catholic organisations. Three of the submissions opposing change that were reproduced in the Report were from Baptist organisations; two were from groups describing themselves as “Christian”, and one was from an Islamic organisation. Of the remaining 17, 12 of the organisations identified as either pro-family, pro-life or both. The motivations of these groups can almost exclusively be identified, expressly or by implication, as being religious in nature, and this impression of overlap gains strength by the use of almost identical and quite distinctive language in a number of the submissions.

On the specific issue of the UNCRC, many of the submissions display a lack of basic understanding of the Convention. The Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child (Northern Ireland) state in their submission that “[t]he Constitution offers greater protection of children’s rights than the CRC, since the Constitution explicitly recognises the right to life before birth... As the Constitution already provides stronger protection of the rights of children than the CRC, no amendment is necessary. [A253]” While it is true that the Irish Constitution provides stronger protection than the UNCRC for the unborn child, no reasonable interpretation of the Constitution – with its one vague reference to the “natural and imprescriptible right of the child” and its overwhelmingly parent- and family-orientated jurisprudence – could possibly construe it as providing stronger protection for the born child than the comprehensive scheme of rights set out in the UNCRC.

Such a lack of understanding, along with a healthy degree of suspicion and even outright hostility, is displayed in many of the comments made regarding the UNCRC. Descriptions of the Convention range from “bland” and “flawed” at the kind end of the spectrum, to the view that it “lacks moral credibility”, is “contrary to the best interests of the child” and has given rise to “outrageous” and “perverse” interpretations at the less kind end. The Muintir na nÉireann submission (which, in spite of the grandiose name of the organization, was written in the first person) stated: “I don’t think any views of the UN should be entertained with regard to the rights of the child while it actively promotes abortion as a means of birth control in third world countries. [A195]” The Christian Women’s Federation submission states that “[w]hile the Convention contains some good principles, we do not require to be told by international bodies how to bring up children. [A41]” The European Life Network stated that the UNCRC has the potential to cause a range of problems, including to “forbid home schooling of children by parents” and “give children a ‘right to privacy’, which in practice gives children the legal right to tell parents not to interfere in their lives (and even make certain areas of their home off-limits to parents) [A63]”. Since these points are not in any way clearly stated in the Convention, and the Irish Constitution expressly protects the right of parents to educate their children at home, not to mention their property rights, it seems fair to describe this submission as far-fetched in the extreme.

What can be gathered from the submissions reproduced in the appendices to the All Party Oireachtas Committee’s Tenth Progress Report: The Family is that there is a well-organised and vocal lobby who are opposed to any attempt to strengthen the constitutional protection for children’s rights and best interests in Ireland by constitutionalising Article 3 of the UNCRC. The nature of the sources of the submissions and the content of some of them make it possible to question just how large this lobby is, given the degree of overlap between the submissions and the relatively small number of people represented by some of the organisations involved. It is perhaps also possible to question how well informed some elements of it are. Nonetheless, the lobby is not insignificant, and is certainly sincere in its views. The consequence of this is that the two main political parties, who cannot afford to alienate groups who identify themselves as religious, pro-family or pro-life, prefer to avoid the prospect of engaging in a very public and potentially bitter debate with voters that they wish to court.

As against this, the parties are also faced with an overwhelming body of expert opinion regarding the correct course of action, and – as the submissions made in favour of reform demonstrate – this side of the argument also enjoys significant support. Therefore the Oireachtas is trying to be seen to be responding to the calls for reform by putting forward an amendment; but, as the main parties are running scared of a vocal lobby opposing reform, the wording of the amendment currently being put forward is disappointingly weak and in its latest form changes nothing. In this sense, the Oireachtas is caught between two stools and risks satisfying neither party. A principled stance on the part of the Oireachtas is what is required at this crucial juncture: if an amendment is to be put to the people, then surely it should be one that offers a genuine prospect of change. This can only be achieved through putting forward an amendment that would genuinely address the imbalance between the rights of the child and the rights of parents and the family unit, through the constitutionalisation of the welfare principle in terms similar to Article 3 of the UNCRC.

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Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse

The following blog was first published as an editorial in the May edition of First Law's Criminal Law Online Service. Members of the CCJHR are amongst the editors of this monthly newletter which features current issues, case updates and article in the area of criminal law.

The immediate furore following the publication of the Ryan Report centred on the nature and extent of the appalling abuse combined with the lack of proportionate financial contribution by the offending religious orders. At least it seems that this is now being addressed with the members of CORI reluctantly moving from their original stance of refusing to reopen the agreement it entered into with Government in 2002. As a result the religious congregations have now agreed to an independent audit of their assets followed by the payment of a “substantial contribution to a trust”.

There are multiple aspects of this Report which detail processes and procedures that are fundamentally inconsistent with any civilised society. The children, who became the victims in this disgraceful episode of Irish history, were treated by the State as people without rights. How could the provisions of the Constitution be completely ignored by those in authority? What is the point in having such grandiose provisions like Article 40 “[a]ll citizens shall, as human persons, be held equal before the law”? Surely, children fall within the ambit of this provision? What is most distressing is that these vulnerable children were not afforded the rights and protections that accused persons and prisoners were and are in terms of due process etc. even though they were prisoners in all but name. Many would argue having read the Report that the children in the offending institutions were not treated as “human persons” either by the religious orders or by the State. The injustices suffered by the children, both physical and mental, are beyond what normal people can comprehend, yet the State was a willing participant in failing to protect its own citizens through neglect and wanton disregard of the Constitution.

After World War II the world had a glimpse of how humans could behave when left in a position of absolute power, yet the Irish State permitted religious institutions continue to have unabated power over children, some as young as four, in their charge. Similarities have been drawn with the concentration camps under Nazi Germany in the wake of this Report. While the scale of what happened in Europe is beyond comparison, the common factors are: absolute power over their charges; total lack of respect for human value and intentional acts of violence with sole purpose of inflicting pain on their victims.

The findings of the Report give renewed emphasis to calls for a children’s rights amendment to the Constitution that requires that the child’s best interests inform decision-making in all areas concerning children and that recognition be given to the right of the child to be heard in all matters affecting the child. Unfortunately the Constitutional Amendment Bill published in 2007 does not adequately address these issues. Much criticised by children’s groups and experts, the proposed amendment largely replicates the current constitutional position which prioritises the rights of parents over children. It may formally acknowledge the rights of children but it does little to actually vindicate them.

Fundamental change needs to be made in relation to policy as well as the Constitution. The Ryan Report calls for both “debate and reflection” in the aftermath of its publications, and clearly reflection on how all aspects of policy in relation to children is essential to ensure that no child in Ireland can ever be treated in a similar way in the future. Some very practical action must be taken by the Government to legislate on the National Guidelines on Child Protection, to strengthen the system of child protection, and to significantly improve the systems protecting vulnerable children such as those in St Patricks Institution.

Ireland is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child yet the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, in its Recommendation No.5, states that childcare policy in the country “should be child-centred” and that “the needs of the child should be paramount”. Such approaches are fundamental under the Convention. However the sad fact is that Ireland has thus far failed to incorporate such a significant convention into domestic law and the country continues to lack a child rights-based approach in its policies and practice.

With regard to the financial issue, although it is only correct that CORI contribute more to the compensation fund it is also essential that the State fully own up to and apologise for their part in the effective incarceration without rights of so many vulnerable children. The State’s recent actions in fighting Louise O’Keeffe to the Supreme Court on costs in her case over a claim of sexual abuse by a lay teacher in her school places question marks over their willingness to accept responsibility in such cases.

The final unresolved issue is the question of the identity of the abusers, whether the clergy are willing to disclose them, and whether they should face prosecution as many will be of advanced age. The wrong message could be sent to current and future abusers by failing to prosecute on grounds of age. Although we published an article in a previous issue of this newsletter discussing some of the difficulties that historic claims of child sexual abuse can raise, it is clear that sweeping these abuses under the carpet is not an appropriate way forward. The promise of anonymity offered to those who testified to the Ryan Commission was necessary in bringing the scale of the abuses to light. An independent investigation by the gardaí to bring those abusers to justice is now essential.

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Friday, 21 March 2008

Youth Justice 2008: Measuring Compliance with the International Standards

The Centre for Criminal Justice and Human Rights at the Faculty of Law, University College of Cork is hosting a two day international conference on Youth Justice in Ireland and internationally in association with the Children Acts Advisory Board. The Conference is a two-day event – Thursday April 3rd and Friday 4th 2008 - designed to bring together a range of people from around the world who work in the field of youth justice as researchers, practitioners or policy makers.

The aim of this international conference is to provide a forum for the discussion of recent developments in the law and policy of youth justice in Ireland and internationally. It will identify recent trends in youth justice, and anticipate future challenges in the area.

The conference programme comprises International and Irish speakers. Academics and practitioners from all over the world (including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US, India, Nigeria and Europe) as well as from Ireland will present on and discuss trends in youth justice and the extent to which they meet international children’s rights standards. The conference will also be addressed by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr Thomas Hammarberg.

The full programme and booking details are available here. For bookings email youthjustice2008[at]gmail.com. Coverage of the plenary sessions will be provided on the CCJHR Blog.


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Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Indirect Discrimination in Denominational Schools' Admission Policies

The Jewish Free School (JFS) is considered the best Jewish school in the United Kingdom. As a result the school is over-subscribed. As in Ireland (under s. 7(3)(c) of the Equal Status Act 2000), denominational schools in the UK are entitled to favour children of the same denomination as the school in enrollment procedures. In the case of the JFS one of the selection criteria was to “be recognised as being Jewish by the Office of the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregation of the Commonwealth” (JFS Admission Policy). It appears that the Chief Rabbi was, in the case of admissions to JFS, using a sub-rule for admissions that considered whether a child was ethnically Jewish (i.e. having at least one Jewish parent or grandparent), with ethnic Jews being preferred in the case of over subscription to the school.

Yesterday the Chief Schools Adjudicator ruled that the exclusion of a child whose mother (who incidentally is head of English at the school) was a convert to Judaism and not, therefore, ethnically Jewish, was “indirect” discrimination. Importantly, however, the CSA also held that there was no race-relations implication in preferring Jewish students over non-Jewish students, finding instead that this was a matter of religion.

The question of ‘indirect discrimination’ in school admission policies may become germane in Ireland as schools (particularly at primary level) continue to be oversubscribed. Can a Catholic school, for example, not only prefer Catholic children to non-Catholic children in its admission policies but then prefer some Catholic children to others if the number of applicants still out-strips the number of available places? Would it be permissible to narrow down the field of applicants based on the frequency of a child’s attendance at church services? Or based on whether their parents went to Catholic schools? Or based on whether their parents are Catholic? It is clear that the JFS admission criteria were not attempts to assess levels of genuineness of religious conviction or levels of religious conviction; Judaism is an ethnicity as well as a religion, the same is possibly not true of Catholicism (although see O’Toole, “Ethnic Catholicism in Boston” (1992) New England Quarterly 117 for an alternative view). However questions of indirect discrimination may begin to arise in Ireland, and the JFS case suggests that s. 7(3)(c) of the Equal Status Act may not allow for such admission policies on the part of denominational schools.

This story is also reported in The Guardian and Ha’aretz.

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Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Universal Children's Day

This blog post was contributed by PhD Candidate, Liam Thornton

No
vember 20th marked the occasion of Universal Children’s Day.

Some 3,000 children in Ireland are being deprived of basic necessities such as over the counter medicines because their parents cannot afford them as they do not qualify for Child Benefit under the Habitual Residence Condition, a group of organisations working for children’s rights in Ireland have stated.

FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres), the Children’s Rights Alliance, the Vincentian Refugee Centre, Barnardos, the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland (MRCI), OPEN and the Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI) on the occasion of Universal Children’s Day, are highlighting the fact that children are going without basic necessities like medicine, food and adequate clothing as a result of the imposition of the Habitual Residence Condition by the Department of Family and Social Affairs

“The majority are the children of asylum seekers or others seeking protection or humanitarian leave to remain in Ireland, many of whom have to wait years for a decision. Child Benefit has been always seen by the State as a plank to remove children from poverty” according to Noeline Blackwell, Director General of FLAC. “The refusal of Child Benefit means that the State is turning its back on its own policies and commitments, including its commitments under Social Partnership and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

According to the group of organisations, the number of children affected is relatively small and is estimated by FLAC through its research at less than 3,000 children. According to Sr. Breege Keenan of the Vincentian Refugee Centre, the effects of denying Child Benefit to these children are very visible and immediate. “We see children all the time whose parents cannot give them the most basic requirements. These include suitable food and dietary supplements. Over the counter medicines like Calpol and even simple playthings are often way beyond the means of these parents”

“The difficulty is that migration policy overrides everything else, including children’s rights and poverty reduction and in effect, children have little or no influence at the Cabinet table or in the wider political system” according to Ms. Blackwell. According to the group the cost of paying child benefit to all the children affected would be less than €6 million per annum. The group statement concluded that “In today’s Ireland it is shameful that children are being driven into such poverty by a migration led policy which takes no account of the rights and needs of children.”

For more information on this campaign, people may contact Noeline Blackwell, Director General of FLAC, www.flac.ie

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Monday, 12 November 2007

Autumn Publications from CCJHR Members

The Autumn saw a number of publications in criminal justice/human rights and other areas of law from staff and research student members of the CCJHR.

PhD Candidate Claire Murray published “Safeguarding the Right to Liberty of Incapable Compliant Patients with a Mental Disorder in Ireland” in the Dublin University Law Journal in which she considers the current legislative provisions concerning the rights of incapable adults in Irish law and argues that they leave incapable adults susceptible to deprivations of liberty. The article then considers the adequacy of constitutional habeas corpus petitions and Article 5, ECHR litigation to vindicate the right to liberty of these incapable adults.

PhD candidate Olufemi Amao also published an article in the DULJ. His article, entitled "Reconstructing the Role of the Corporation: Multinational Corporations as Public Actors in Nigeria", considers the role of corporate governance rules in the protection of various stakeholders affected by the operations of multinational corporations operating in Nigeria. Arguing for a paradigm shift in corporate governance in Nigeria, Amao’s article posits generalisable arguments about corporate governance that, in his words, “advocates harnessing the potentials of the private structure for the public interest”.

Dr. Catherine O’Sullivan has an article in the current issue of the Irish Criminal Law Journal entitled “The Burglar and the Burglarised: Self-Defence, Home-Defence and Barnes” (p. 10). The article concerns the recent Court of Criminal Appeal decision in DPP v Barnes ([2006] IECCA 165) in which a burglar who had caused the death of the homeowner attempted to appeal a murder conviction on the basis of self defence. O’Sullivan contextualises the case in the light of DPP v Nally ([2006] IECCA 168) and the LRC proposals on self-defence (Consultation Paper on Legitimate Defence).

Dr. Ursula Kilkelly has published “Complicated Childhood: the rights of children in committed relationships” in Binchy & Doyle (Eds) Committed Relationships and the Law (Four Courts Press; Purchase).

Dr. Shane Kilcommins and Dr. Barry Vaughan (IPA) published “The Europeanization of Human Rights: An Obstacle to Authoritarian Policing in Ireland” in the European Journal of Criminology. The article explores the extent to which European human rights standards (mostly the ECHR) “temper[..] the shift towards a repressive model of criminal justice by introducing greater regulation and oversight of policing” in Ireland.

Fiona de Londras has published “The Right to Challenge the Lawfulness of Detention: An International Perspective on U.S. Detention of Suspected-Terrorists” in the Journal of Conflict and Security Law (currently available by advance access) in which she considers the role of detention practices of the US in the ‘War on Terrorism’ and advocates the vindication of suspected terrorists’ right to challenge the lawfulness of their detention under international human rights law. She also published a comprehensive text book on The Principles of Irish Property Law (Clarus Press; Purchase).

Dr. Mary Donnelly and Fidelma White have published “Webtraders' obligations under the Distance Selling Regulations 2001—From legal standards to best practice” in The Commercial Law Practitioner (p. 172) in which they consider webtraders' pre-contract information obligations under the European Communities (Protection of Consumers in Respect of Contracts made by means of Distance Communication) Regulations 2001 and principles of best practice that exceed the requirements of the Regulations but that might nonetheless be adopted by webtraders for reputational reasons. The article presents the authors’ arguments in the context of an empirical study of 80 Ireland-based websites.

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