Listen to children on behaviour

18th June 2004 at 01:00
The Northern Ireland commissioner for children and young people has applied for a judicial review of plans to introduce anti-social behaviour orders, claiming children were not consulted properly.

Nigel Williams is unhappy with the amount of time that the Northern Ireland Office gave young people to have their say.

He believes that the Government may be in breach of article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which requires countries to involve children in decisions that affect their lives.

A 12-week consultation into the introduction of the orders ended at the beginning of June. The application was due to come before the courts today.

Anti-social behaviour orders originated in England and Wales and the Northern Ireland Office has been monitoring their effectiveness since 1998. It wants to introduce them to protect people who are under threat from others.

The orders may be made on conviction in criminal proceedings where anti-social behaviour has taken place, and there is a possibility it may continue.

A breach of an order would be a criminal offence carrying a penalty of up to five years imprisonment or a fine, or both.

Last month, draft proposals for the scheme were unveiled by John Spellar, Northern Ireland's criminal justice minister.

He said a consultation on the orders earlier in the year demonstrated clear public support for their introduction.

Linda Kerr, head of legal and complaints for the commissioner, said: "We believe that the views of children and young people have not been fully taken into consideration. If children as young as 10 are expected to understand these orders, they should also be consulted on their introduction.

"We are very concerned at how little the draft legislation has taken account of our concerns that they will be counter-productive in tackling anti-social behaviour.

"There was an opportunity not only to consult young people but also to undertake a programme of exploring why anti-social behaviour takes place, and asking young people to identify ways of combating it."

The Northern Ireland Office said it was inappropriate to comment on the legal challenge.

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