The government is breaching at least 10 articles of the UN convention on the Rights of the Child in the way it treats young offenders, it was alleged this week.
The Howard League for Penal Reform made the comments in a submission to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child weeks before the government is due to report on its implementation of the convention.
States that have ratified the convention have to report to the committee every five years to enable their progress on implementation to be assessed. The UK is due to submit its next report in July.
Article 37 of the convention states that custody should be used only as a measure of last resort for children and for the shortest period of time necessary, but the Howard League says that this is not the case in England and Wales.
It quotes statistics published by the Council of Europe in 2005 showing England and Wales had jailed 2,274 children compared with 1,456 in Germany, 628 in France, 73 in the Netherlands and nine in Norway.
“The government is failing the convention, and therefore failing Britain’s children. And by failing those children that go through the criminal justice system, the government is failing the most vulnerable of all,” said Frances Crook, director of the Howard League.
Some of the articles the Howard League claims are being breached
● Article 3: in all actions concerning children the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.
● Article 19: countries should take measures to protect the child from all forms of violence and abuse.
● Article 37: custody should be used for children only as a last resort.