The Conservative government’s policies risk systematically stripping children of their rights, a report for the United Nations has found.
An assessment by the four children’s commissioners of the UK, the first full-scale review for seven years, called on the government to reconsider its deep welfare cuts, voiced “serious concerns” about children being denied access to justice in the courts, and called on ministers to rethink plans to repeal the Human Rights Act.
The commissioners, representing each of the constituent nations of the UK, conducted their review of the state of children’s policies as part of evidence they will present on Wednesday to the UN revealing how much progress has been made under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Many of the government’s decisions are questioned by the report as being in breach of the convention, which has been ratified by the UK. England’s children’s commissioner, Anne Longfield, said:
“We are finding and highlighting that much of the country’s laws and policies defaults away from the view of the child. That’s in breach of the treaty. What we found again and again was that the best interest of the child is not taken into account.”
In particular there are continuing concerns over the issues of abuse and the impact on children – with 25% of children in the UK exposed to domestic abuse between adults in their homes at some point in childhood. Studies reveal that in family courts “many of the youngest and most vulnerable children are currently not heard”.
Perhaps the most shocking finding is the rise of peer-on-peer domestic abuse among young people. Commissioners say that almost two thirds of “contact sexual abuse of children was perpetrated by other children”.
Longfield said that “over the next five years it will be the case that there will be an enormous number of children through the court system and we need to reflect the need to engage and listen to them in a way that is not happening now”.
The commissioners argue the government’s plans to “break the formal link between British courts and the European Court of Human Rights” by scrapping the Human Rights Act is a backwards step.
Political parties in Newcastle have united to oppose the Government’s proposed repeal of the Human Rights Act.
The Liberal Democrats and Labour will come together on Wednesday night at a Newcastle City Council meeting and are likely to vote in favour of lobbying the Government to abandon plans.
They also plan to write to Home Secretary Theresa May, expressing concern.
Normally fierce political rivals, councillors from both parties say this move shows the strength of feeling against the proposed changes.
The new Government’s plans to scrap the Human Rights Act in favour of a British Bill of Rights has prompted outcry from politicians and legal rights groups as well as several celebrities. However those in favour believe severing the formal link between British court and the European Court of Human Rights would be welcomed.
The Conservatives believe the move would strengthen the powers of British supreme court with less deference to Strasbourg, however the plan was noticeably absent from the Queen’s Speech prompting concerns over a struggle within the Tory party to gain backbench support.
In line with the views of their national parties, both the Liberal Democrat and the Labour parties in Newcastle have submitted motions to the council with deputy Lib Dem councillor Dr Wendy Taylor asking members to reject any proposal made by the Government to repeal the act.
She wants other councillors to agree that these ‘fundamental rights and freedoms’ enshrined in the act ‘are crucial for a fair, free and democratic society.’
“At a time when we are honouring those who fought in the Second World War and the purpose for which so many lost their lives defending our liberty and freedoms, we reject the Government’s proposal to repeal the Human Rights Act and withdraw from the European court of human rights in Strasbourg.”
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One of Cameron’s power-crazed plans is to scrap the Human Rights Act and replace it with a ‘Bill of Rights’.
The move is intended to remove the checks and balances in place which stop the government abusing its power and citizens.
Under current legislation, the government is accountable for breaches of human rights articles contained in the European Convention on Human Rights.
Checking the record of the British government in cases at the European Court of Human Rights reveals a less than glowing record, falling far behind many other European countries.
European Court of Human Rights – Violation Statistics 1959 to 2014 – Number of judgements finding at least one violation. (Lower numbers are better). The United Kingdom is 36th out of 47 on the list.
1959 – 2014
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Tory plans to pull out of the European Court of Human Rights have been dismissed as a backward step and “a sop to Ukip and right wingers” by North East politicians.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling believes the extraordinary move would restore “common sense” to the British legal system, allowing judges in this country to effectively ignore Strasbourg.
The extraordinary move would give the ECHR no move than an advisory role and hand politicians and judges final say on issues like prisoner voting and life sentences. Mr Grayling also said it would stop terrorists and foreign criminals relying on human rights laws to stay in the UK.
But Labour peer Jeremy Beecham accused the Justice Secretary of pandering to the right wing.
He said: “This is a sop to Ukip and Tory right wingers.
“It was a Conservative Government which led the way on the EHRC, but the present Tory Party has a shocking record on legal aid, access to justice and judicial review and this just another example of its attitude, ironically in what will be the 800th anniversary year of Magna Carta.”
Vera Baird, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “The Human Rights Act benefits ordinary people on a daily basis and can help victims of crime.
“Recently it allowed two young women, who were victims of the black cab rapist John Worboys, to sue the police for failing to investigate his appalling crimes properly.”
She added human rights law was widely misrepresented in parts of the media and called on Chris Grayling to re-think the plans.
She said: “For instance in 2006 it was reported that police gave fried chicken to a suspected car thief who had fled from police and was besieged on a roof ‘because of his human rights’.
“Surprise, surprise, there is no human right to KFC – it was used as part of the negotiating tactics that encouraged him to come down.
“Nor is there a bar to deporting a criminal because he has a British cat, as Theresa May once claimed.
“Whether a foreign criminal stays or goes is a balancing act, which is far better done in our courts than in Strasbourg.”
But Labour’s Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell believes the country should be given a choice on its relationship with Europe.
He said: “On the whole it’s good to have a Court of Human Rights as they have made some good decisions, but I haven’t agreed with them all.
“Although I haven’t agreed with all the decisions made by the judicial system, I still think we should let the people decide, not the politicians, and have a referendum.”
Chris Grayling made the announcement as the Conservative Party Conference drew to a close this week and as the campaign for next year’s General Election gets underway.
He said: “We will always stand against real human rights abuses, and political persecution. But these plans will make sure that we put Britain first and restore common sense to human rights in this country.”
> Translation – lets make Britain a feudal state where people like me who went to the right schools get to make the law that suits our best interests. Fuck anyone else.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 03 Oct 2014
“Manifestly inadequate” are words that should ring in Iain Duncan Smith’s ears for some time to come.
They are the Council of Europe’s verdict on the UK’s social security system of payments for jobseekers, pensioners and recipients of both short- and long-term incapacity benefit.
The Council, an international organisation promoting co-operation between all countries of Europe in legal standards, human rights, democratic development, the rule of law and cultural co-operation, is home to the European Court of Human Rights.
The finding was made in an annual review of the UK’s adherence to the council’s European Social Charter. If the UK’s Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition government takes no action to rectify the situation, then the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers may address a recommendation to the UK, asking it to change the situation in law or in practice. This is clearly a weak way of handling a situation…
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