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Sinn Féin demands that Michael McDowell clarify his approach to juvenile justice

8 September, 2005

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform presented proposals today for additions to the Criminal Justice Bill, which Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Aengus Ó Snodaigh said, "amounted to a turnaround in the governments approach to children."

According to Deputy Ó Snodaigh, "the Minister plans to lower the age of criminal responsibility and to introduce Anti-Social Behaviour Orders. The net effect of this will be to widen the criminalisation of children.

"Under the Minister‚s proposals the principle of restorative justice which underpins and is enshrined in the Childrens Act 2001 would be replaced by a penal approach. The Minister must now clarify his approach to juvenile justice. The Ministers proposals would also require sizeable resources yet the government has already failed to fully resource and implement the existing provisions of the Children's Act.

"In 1996 the United Nations Committee reporting on Ireland expressed concern at the low age limits in this jurisdiction. Following this the government made a commitment to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 12 years. Provision for this was made in the Children Act 2001. The States own recent report responding to the earlier UN reprimand points to the provision in the Children Act for raising the age of crimina responsibility to 12 years as progress. The State's report fails of course to mention the Ministers intention to lower that commitment to 10 years and 7 for serious crimes. The Minister appears hell bent on following a poor British example rather than looking to some of our more progressive European neighbours." ENDS

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