Guarded Welcome for Closure of "Dehumanising Penal Institution"
The Children's Law Centre today gave a guarded welcome on
the Government's announcement of it's intention to close Lisnevin
Juvenile Justice Centre. The Children's Law Centre have long
argued that Lisnevin itself and the policy and practice operating
in the Centre, fall far short of acceptable human rights standards.
The concerns of the Children's Law Centre were echoed in the
Government's own report, which in 1997 described Lisnevin
as a "dehumanising penal institution".
"We welcome the closure of Lisnevin. We have been deeply
concerned over a number of years about the use of Lisnevin
for the detention of children. We believe the policy and practice
in relation to detaining children in Lisnevin did not comply
with international human rights standards as we had ongoing
concerns about alleged denials of the rights of children there"
commented Tara Caul, solicitor with the Children's Law Centre.
"We are however, concerned by the decision to concentrate
all facilities on one site. International guidelines state
that custody should be a matter of last resort for children
but that when it is unavoidable children should be placed
in small family sized units close to their own communities
where relationships with families and schools can be maintained.
Having one site in Bangor makes it very difficult for a mother
from for example Strabane, who does not have a car to visit
a child detained there. This could mean that during their
period of detention the child never sees it's family".
"We have an important opportunity to create a juvenile
justice system which will work for the benefit of children
and society. We hope the NIO will not replicate the mistakes
of the past with the sole focus on security. It is vital that
the culture and ethos of Lisnevin is not transferred to any
new site and the priority is on supporting children to turn
away from offending and helping them to reintegrate back into
their communities as opposed to locking them up" she
The Children's Law Centre also sought assurances from the
NIO that the Rathgael site would be suitable for children
from all communities. The safety of children detained under
any new arrangements has to be the paramount consideration
for the NIO.