01/02/2005

Commission tackles Government on Rathgael conditions

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (HRC) is taking the government to court today in order to win the right to monitor conditions at the Juvenile Justice Centre in Rathgael, Bangor.

The Commission said it had sought a judicial review of the decision by the Northern Ireland Office not to grant it access rights to the Centre.

The HRC wants to check whether the recommendations contained in its report 'In Our Care: Promoting the Rights of Children in Custody', published in March 2002, are being properly implemented.

The report made a number of findings regarding the treatment of young offenders in the juvenile justice system.

Professor Brice Dickson, Chief Commissioner of the HRC: “We are extremely disappointed that we have had to go to these lengths to gain access to the Rathgael Centre.

“Given the announcement by the Secretary of State (Paul Murphy) in December that we would be given the right to visit places of detention, it is frustrating that we still have to take legal action in order to complete our review of conditions for children held in this facility.”

Meanwhile, a new report by academics has questioned the effectiveness of the Commission.

In a two-year study by two professors from Bristol University and Queen's University in Belfast, the report said that while the Commission had achieved positive outcomes in some areas, its effectiveness in a number of areas is disputed.

Placing responsibility for the failings partly on the government, the report was critical of the NIO.

The report was compiled by Dr Rachel Murray of the University of Bristol and the late Professor Stephen Livingstone of Queen's University.

(MB/SP)

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