ANNEX 6: CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS OF THE
COMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD: UNITED KINGDOM, FEBRUARY
1. The Committee considered the initial
report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
(CRC/C/i l/Add.1) at its 204th, 205th and 206th meetings (CRC/C/SR.204-206),
held on 24 and 25 January 1995, and adopted* the following concluding
2. The Committee appreciates the opportunity
to engage in a constructive dialogue with the State party and
welcomes the timely submission by the Government of the written
responses to the Committee's list of issues (see CRC/C.7/WP.1).
The Committee welcomes the additional oral information provided
by the delegation of the State party which greatly assisted in
clarifying many of the issues raised by the Committee. The additional
oral information was particularly useful, in view of the Committee's
observation that the initial report of the State party lacked
sufficient information on the factors and difficulties impeding
the implementation of various rights provided for in the Convention.
B. POSITIVE ASPECTS
3. The Committee takes note of the adoption
by the State party of a Children's Act applicable to England and
Wales. The Committee also observes that the State party has extended
the application of the Convention to many of its dependent territories.
The Committee welcomes the intention of the State party to consider
withdrawing the reservation it made to article 37 of the Convention
as it relates to the procedures governing children's hearings
4. Moreover, the Committee welcomes the
initiatives being taken by the State party to reduce the incidence
of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and to combat the problem of bullying
in school. In addition, the Committee is encouraged by the steps
taken to address the issue of the sexual abuse of children, including
through the development of the "Working Together" initiative
which advocates and promotes an interdisciplinary approach to
addressing this serious problem.
5. The Committee welcomes the information
it received concerning the commitment of the Government to review
its legislation in the area of the employment of children and
to present new legislation in matters relating to the family,
domestic violence and disability. Likewise, the Committee welcomes
the measures being taken to pass further legislation in the area
of adoption, including the intention of the Government to ratify
the 1993 Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation
in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. The Committee takes note
of the Code of Practice for Children with Special Educational
Needs which has statutory force and has been developed within
the framework of the 1993 Education Act.
6. The Committee takes note of the Government's
commitment to extend the provision of preschool education. The
Committee is equally appreciative of the recent initiative taken
by the State party to require local authorities, in conjunction
with health authorities and non-governmental organizations, to
draw up Children's Service Plans.
C. PRINCIPAL SUBJECTS OF CONCERN
7. The Committee is concerned about the
broad nature of the reservations made to the Convention by the
State party which raise concern as to their compatibility with
the object and purpose of the Convention. In particular, the reservation
relating to the application of the Nationality and Immigration
Act does not appear to be compatible with the principles and provisions
of the Convention, including those of its articles 2, 3, 9 and
8. The Committee remains unclear about the
extent to which an effective coordinating mechanism exists for
the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
It is concerned whether sufficient consideration has been given
to the establishment of mechanisms, including of an independent
nature, to coordinate and monitor the implementation of the rights
of the child.
9. With respect to article 4 of the Convention,
the Committee is concerned about the adequacy of measures taken
to ensure the implementation of economic, social and cultural
rights to the maximum extent of available resources. It appears
to the Committee that insufficient expenditure is allocated to
the social sector both within the State party and within the context
of international development aid; the Committee wonders whether
sufficient consideration has been given to the enjoyment of fundamental
rights by children belonging to the most vulnerable groups in
10. The Committee notes that the initial
report of the State party contains little information on the difficulties
experienced by children living in Northern Ireland and the effect
on children of the operation of emergency legislation there. The
Committee is concerned about the absence of effective safeguards
to prevent the ill-treatment of children under the emergency legislation.
In this connection, the Committee observes that under the same
legislation it is possible to hold children as young as 10 for
7 days without charge. It is also noted that the emergency legislation
which gives the police and the army the power to stop, question
and search people on the street has led to complaints of children
being badly treated. The Committee is concerned about this situation
which may lead to a lack of confidence in the system of investigation
and action on such complaints.
11. The Committee is concerned about the
apparent insufficiency of measures taken to ensure the implementation
of the general principles of the Convention, namely the provisions
of its articles 2, 3, 6 and 12. In this connection, the Committee
observes in particular that the principle of the best interests
of the child appears not to be reflected in legislation in such
areas as health, education and social security which have a bearing
on the respect for the rights of the child.
12. With regard to article 2 of the Convention
relating to non-discrimination, the Committee expresses its concern
at the insufficient measures undertaken to ensure its implementation.
In particular, it is concerned about the possible adverse effects
on children of the restrictions applied to unmarried fathers in
transmitting citizenship to their children, in contradiction of
the provisions of articles 7 and 8 of the Convention. In addition,
the Committee is concerned that children of certain ethnic minorities
appear to be more likely to be placed in care.
13. Furthermore, in the light of article
6 of the Convention, the Committee expresses its concern at the
health status of children of different socio-economic groups and
those belonging to ethnic minorities.
14. In relation to the implementation of
article 12, the Committee is concerned that insufficient attention
has been given to the right of the child to express his/her opinion,
including in cases where parents in England and Wales have the
possibility of withdrawing their children from parts of the sex
education programmes in schools. In this as in other decisions,
including exclusion from school, the child is not systematically
invited to express his/her opinion and those opinions may not
be given due weight, as required under article 12 of the Convention.
15. The Committee notes with concern the
increasing number of children living in poverty. The Committee
is aware that the phenomenon of children begging and sleeping
on the streets has become more visible. The Committee is concerned
that the changed regulations regarding benefit entitlements to
young people may have contributed to the increase in the number
of young homeless people. The rate of divorce and the number of
single-parent families and teenage pregnancies in the State party
are noted with concern. These phenomena raise a number of issues,
including as regards the adequacy of benefit allowances and the
availability and effectiveness of family education.
16. The Committee is disturbed about the
reports it has received on the physical and sexual abuse of children.
In this connection, the Committee is worried about the national
legal provisions dealing with reasonable chastisement within the
family. The imprecise nature of the expression of reasonable chastisement
as contained in these legal provisions may pave the way for it
to be interpreted in a subjective and arbitrary manner. Thus,
the Committee is concerned that legislative and other measures
relating to the physical integrity of children do not appear to
be compatible with the provisions and principles of the Convention,
including those of its articles 3, 19 and 37. The Committee is
equally concerned that privately funded and managed schools are
still permitted to administer corporal punishment to children
in attendance there which does not appear to be compatible with
the provisions of the Convention, including those of its article
28, paragraph 2.
17. The administration of the juvenile justice
system in the State party is a matter of general concern to the
Committee. The low age of criminal responsibility and the national
legislation relating to the administration of juvenile justice
seem not to be compatible with the provisions of the Convention,
namely articles 37 and 40.
18. The Committee remains concerned about
certain of the provisions of the Criminal Justice and Public Order
Act 1994. The Committee notes that its provisions provide, inter
alia, for the possibility of applying "secure training orders"
on children aged 12 to 14 in England and Wales. The Committee
is concerned about the compatibility of the application of such
secure training orders on young children with the principles and
provisions of the Convention in relation to the administration
of juvenile justice, particularly its articles 3, 37, 39 and 40.
In particular, the Committee is concerned that the ethos of the
guidelines for the administration and establishment of Secure
Training Centres in England and Wales and the Training Schools
in Northern Ireland appears to lay emphasis on imprisonment and
19. The Committee is equally concerned that
children placed in care under the social welfare system may be
held in Training Schools in Northern Ireland and may be placed
in the future in Secure Training Centres in England and Wales.
20. The Committee is also concerned that
The Criminal Evidence (N.L) Order 1988 appears to be incompatible
with article 40 of the Convention, in particular with the right
to presumption of innocence and the right not to be compelled
to give testimony or confess guilt. It is noted that silence in
response to police questioning can be used to support a finding
of guilt against a child over 10 years of age in Northern Ireland.
Silence at trial can be similarly used against children over 14
years of age.
21. The situation of Gypsy and Traveller
children is a matter of concern to the Committee, especially with
regard to their access to basic services and the provision of
D. SUGGESTIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
22. The Committee wishes to encourage the State
party to consider reviewing its reservations to the Convention
with a view to withdrawing them, particularly in light of the
agreements made in this regard at the World Conference on Human
Rights and incorporated in the Vienna Declaration and Programme
23. The Committee would like to suggest
that the State party consider establishing a national mechanism
for the purpose of coordinating the implementation of the Convention,
including between governmental departments and between central
and local governmental authorities. Furthermore, the Committee
suggests that the State party establish a permanent mechanism
for the monitoring of the Children's Act and the Convention on
the Rights of the Child throughout the United Kingdom. It is further
suggested that ways and means be established to facilitate regular
and closer cooperation between the Government and the non-governmental
community, particularly with those non-governmental organizations
closely involved in monitoring the respect for the rights of the
child in the State party.
24. With regard to the implementation of
article 4 of the Convention, the Committee would like to suggest
that the general principles of the Convention, particularly the
provisions of its article 3, relating to the best interests of
the child, should guide the determination of policy-making at
both the central and local levels of government. This approach
is of relevance to decisions taken about the allocation of resources
to the social sector at the central and local governmental levels,
including with regard to the allocation of benefits to children
who have completed compulsory schooling and have no full-time
employment. The Committee notes the importance of additional efforts
to overcome the problems of growing social and economic inequality
and increased poverty.
25. With regard to matters relating to the
health, welfare and standard of living of children in the United
Kingdom, the Committee recommends additional measures to address,
as a matter of priority, problems affecting the health status
of children of different socio-economic groups and of children
belonging to ethnic minorities and to the problems of homelessness
affecting children and their families.
26. The Committee recommends that in line
with the provisions of article 42 of the Convention, the State
party should undertake measures to make the provisions and principles
of the Convention widely known to adults and children alike. It
is also suggested that teaching about children's rights should
be incorporated into the training curricula of professionals working
with or for children, such as teachers, the police, judges, social
workers, health workers and personnel in care and detention institutions.
27. The Committee would like to suggest
that greater priority be given to incorporating the general principles
of the Convention, especially the provisions of its article 3,
relating to the best interests of the child, and article 12, concerning
the child's right to make their views known and to have these
views given due weight, in the legislative and administrative
measures and in policies undertaken to implement the rights of
the child. It is suggested that the State party consider the possibility
of establishing further mechanisms to facilitate the participation
of children in decisions affecting them, including within the
family and the community.
28. The Committee recommends that race relations
legislation be introduced in Northern Ireland as a matter of urgency
and is encouraged by the information presented by the delegation
of the State party regarding the Government's intention to follow
up on this matter.
29. The Committee would also like to suggest
that a review be undertaken of the nationality and immigration
laws and procedures to ensure their conformity with the principles
and provisions of the Convention.
30. The Committee recommends that further
measures be undertaken to educate parents about their responsibilities
towards their children, including through the provision of family
education which should emphasize the equal responsibilities of
both parents. While recognizing that the Government views the
problem of teenage pregnancies as a serious one, the Committee
suggests that additional efforts, in the form of prevention-oriented
programmes which could be part of an educational campaign, are
required to reduce the number of teenage pregnancies.
31. The Committee is also of the opinion
that additional efforts are required to overcome the problem of
violence in society. The Committee recommends that physical punishment
of children in families be prohibited in the light of the provisions
set out in articles 3 and 19 of the Convention. In connection
with the child's right to physical integrity, as recognized by
the Convention, namely in its articles 19, 28, 29 and 37, and
in the light of the best interests of the child, the Committee
suggests that the State party consider the possibility of undertaking
additional education campaigns. Such measures would help to change
societal attitudes towards the use of physical punishment in the
family and foster the acceptance of the legal prohibition of the
physical punishment of children.
32. With regard to matters relating to education,
the Committee suggests that children's right to appeal against
expulsion from school be effectively ensured. It is also suggested
that procedures be introduced to ensure that children are provided
with the opportunity to express their views on the running of
the schools in matters of concern to them. Further, the Committee
recommends that the training curricula of teachers should incorporate
education about the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It
is recommended that teaching methods should be inspired by and
reflect the spirit and philosophy of the Convention, in the light
of the general principles of the Convention and the provisions
of its article 29. The Committee would also like to suggest that
the State party consider the possibility of introducing education
about the Convention on the Rights of the Child into school curricula.
Legislative measures are recommended to prohibit the use of corporal
punishment in privately funded and managed schools.
33. The Committee also suggests that the
State party provide further support to the teaching of the Irish
language in schools in Northern Ireland and to integrated education
34. The Committee recommends that the emergency
and other legislation, including in relation to the system of
administration of juvenile justice, at present in operation in
Northern Ireland should be reviewed to ensure its consistency
with the principles and provisions of the Convention.
35. The Committee recommends that law reform
be pursued in order to ensure that the system of the administration
of juvenile justice is child-oriented. The Committee also wishes
to recommend that the State party take the necessary measures
to prevent juvenile delinquency as set down in the Convention
and complemented by the Riyadh Guidelines.
36. More specifically, the Committee recommends
that serious consideration be given to raising the age of criminal
responsibility throughout the areas of the United Kingdom. The
Committee also recommends the introduction of careful monitoring
of the new Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 with a view
to ensuring full respect for the Convention on the Rights of the
Child. In particular, the provisions of the Act which allow for,
inter alia, placement of secure training orders on children aged
between 12 and 14, indeterminate detention, and the doubling of
sentences which may be imposed on 15- to 17-year-old children
should be reviewed with respect to their compatibility with the
principles and provisions of the Convention.
37. Within the context of the law reform
being considered with regard to matters relating to the employment
of children, the Committee expresses the hope that the State party
will consider reviewing its reservation with a view to its withdrawal.
Similarly, the Committee expresses the hope that the Government
may consider the possibility of becoming a party to ILO Convention
38. The issues of sexual exploitation and
drug abuse as they affect children should also be addressed on
an urgent basis, including with regard to the undertaking of further
measures to prevent them.
39. The Committee is of the view that the
implementation of the provisions of article 39 of the Convention
deserves greater attention. Programmes and strategies should be
developed to ensure that measures are in place to promote the
physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of
a child victim of, Inter alia, neglect, sexual exploitation, abuse,
family conflict, violence, drug abuse, as well as of children
in the system of administration of justice. Such measures should
be applied within the national context but also within the framework
of international cooperation.
40. In addition, the Committee recommends
pro-active measures for the rights of children belonging to Gypsy
and Traveller communities, including their right to education,
and that a sufficient number of adequately appointed caravan sites
for these communities be secured.
41. The Committee also recommends that information
on the implementation of the Convention in the dependent territory
of Hong Kong be submitted to the Committee by 1996.
42. The Committee encourages the State party
to disseminate widely the State party report, summary records
of the discussion of the report within the Committee and the concluding
observations adopted by the Committee following its consideration
of the report. The Committee would like to suggest that these
documents be brought to the attention of Parliament and that the
suggestions and recommendations for action contained therein be
followed up. In this regard, the Committee suggests that closer
cooperation with non-governmental organizations be pursued.
* At the 208th meeting, held on 26 January 1995.