Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, Koulla Yiasouma, comments on the disappointing lack of progress made in the latest CJI inspection on a range of areas such as police custody, bail arrangements, diversionary approaches and safeguarding.
“I welcome this report as it provides further evidence and a stark reminder that work to improve the experiences for some of our most vulnerable young people has not sufficiently progressed since the devolution of Justice in 2010.
“Its findings in relation to young people highlights a lack of meaningful progress and indeed in some cases stalled progress, which I find both extremely disappointing and unacceptable.
“While the use of diversionary approaches for children is welcome, the report highlights difficulties when applying these approaches to ‘Looked After’ young people in children’s homes. It also notes that efforts between the PSNI and health and social care partners to resolve this blockage have stalled, and recommends this recommencing within the next three months. This is clearly a priority and something I fully endorse.
“It is concerning that 96% of young people in the Juvenile Justice Centre (JJC) in 2018/19 were there on bail or remand, with children who are cared for by the state disproportionately represented in custody in police stations and the JJC.
“Clearly the state has a responsibility to the children in their care and every effort must be made to ensure that they are not criminalised or experience custody of any form. Children and young people must never be held in custody due to the lack of suitable accommodation and custody of any sort must only be used as a very last resort.
“It is deeply frustrating that in 2020 CJINI are repeating recommendations that have been made by numerous reviews over the past two decades, including by the NI Law Commission in 2011.
“I fully expect Ms Durkin’s recommendations will inform the work currently being undertaken by the DoJ on the reform of Bail legislation. This work as well as implementation of the report’s other recommendations needs to be driven forward as a matter of urgency. I will be closely monitoring the situation to ensure there is real and tangible change for our young people.