23/06/2003

More action needed for cross-border child protection

A report on a North/South Conference on Child Protection has called for more action to be taken.

Held last September, the conference gave local professionals a chance to discuss recommendations for a common approach to all child protection systems between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Highlighting developments on both sides of the border to better protect children, today's report says that more action is needed to ensure the border is not seen as a "bonus" for those who want to harm children.

The report from the 'Beyond Borders Conference' organised by Barnardo's Northern Ireland, the ISPCC, Barnardos Ireland and NSPCC Northern Ireland, will be sent out by the charities to all political parties, governments, health authorities, the education sector, police and delegates of the conference from north and south.

Commenting on the report, Ian Elliott, NSPCC Northern Ireland Director said: "Since the event there have been positive developments both North and South, such as the new UK Sexual Offences Bill compelling convicted of sex offenders from another jurisdiction to register upon entry into the UK.

"This effectively closes the loophole whereby convicted paedophiles in the Republic of Ireland could avoid registration by moving to Northern Ireland. However more action is needed to ensure that those who wish to harm children do not see the border as a way of getting round systems to protect children, particularly in relation to common North South arrangements for the vetting those who work with children".

The conference provided an opportunity for professionals from both sides of the border to exchange views on current practices.

It said that a number of areas still required further action including clear protocols and reciprocal arrangements for cross border information exchange in child protection and the development of common standards of vetting in both parts of the island.

(MB)

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