Thematic Review: Children and Young People

Title of guidance:

Human Rights Thematic Review - Children and Young People

Northern Ireland Policing Board (NIPB)

Thematic Review Children and Young PeopleYear published: 2011
Length: 137 pages
Format: PDF (1.1Mb)
Other formats: alternative formats such as CD, large print, audio cassette and in minority languages may be made available on request - phone: 028 9040 8500 / email:
Producer/ Publisher: NIPB
Type of organisation: Inspectorate

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Policing | Children's services | Criminal justice, courts and prisons | Immigration and asylum | Inspection and regulation | Commissioning or procurement | External Service Guidance | Human Rights Act | European Convention on Human Rights | UN Convention on the Rights of the Child | International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights | Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 | GB wide | Case studies

Audience: Senior Executives | Service management | Front-line service personnel | Elected councillors, board members, trustees | Policy managers and directors | Legal directors

Topics: Human rights | equality | restraint | transparency and accountability | proportionality | involvement and participation | privacy | best interests | torture / inhuman or degrading treatment


As part of the Northern Ireland Policing Board's human rights monitoring of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) this is one of a series of thematic reviews, with a focus on children and young people (which was identified as a key policing priority). An important feature of this approach is said to be the use of the community's experience of policing as the evidence base to evaluate policy and practice. The review covers, in comprehensive detail, the policing of anti-social behaviour, police powers (including dispersal zones, mosquito devices, public order, stop and search, community engagement, and DNA and fingerprints) and alternative disposals. It emphasises the need to take account of the full range of national and international standards relating to the rights of children and young people, notably the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Relevant national and international standards, judgments and reports are referred to throughout the review.

Key human rights messages in this guidance

  • The protection of human rights must be practical and effective.
  • When considering the rights and freedoms enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), particular importance should be attached to the rights of the child.
  • Where children are concerned, the PSNI must comply not only with the ECHR but must also have regard to other human rights treaties that set down standards specifically in relation to children.
  • The exercise of police powers (particularly in relation to children and young people) must be lawful, necessary, proportionate and in the best interest of that child or young person.
  • It is a fundamental requirement of the right to a fair trial that a person is considered innocent unless and until convicted of an offence. That includes the general rule that no suspicion regarding an accused person's innocence may be voiced after their acquittal.

Full review of this guidance

Legal and policy context

The Northern Ireland Policing Board (NIPB) has a statutory duty to monitor the compliance of the PSNI with the Human Rights Act (HRA) 1998. In order to do so the NIPB appointed human rights advisers to establish a human rights monitoring framework. As part of this monitoring, the NIPB has established a series of human rights thematic reviews on specific areas of policing.

The review acknowledges that the conflict post-1968 in Northern Ireland had a significant effect on the realisation of children's rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

Where children are concerned, it says, the PSNI must comply not only with the European Convention on Human Rights but must also have regard to other human rights treaties that set down standards specifically in relation to children, notably the CRC.

This includes having regard to, for example, recommendations of the independent body of experts that monitors implementation of the CRC.

The review states that it does not underestimate the grave hurt and harm caused to communities by offending behaviour, but rejects the argument that somehow community safety is prejudiced by the police adopting a rights-based (and child-centred) approach.

Organisational lessons

The review endorses police service delivery which is:

  • preventative
  • diversionary (that is, designed to minimise the offender's involvement with the criminal justice system), and
  • which has the best interest of children and young people at the centre of its functions.

It makes a series of recommendations to the PSNI, such as the need to involve youth advisors in the planning of operations involving children and young people.

The review also recommends that images of or details about children and young people should not be released into the public domain unless it is necessary to protect the young person or the public from serious injury and only after all reasonable methods have been tried and failed.

It says effective training on human rights principles and practice is critical for any police service committed to compliance with the HRA.

Related equality messages (if applicable):

The review states that treating people equally does not mean treating all people in the same way: it requires the police to take differences into account and provide a service tailored to specific needs to ensure that all individuals, regardless of, for example, age, gender or sexual orientation, enjoy equal access to the benefit and protection of the ECHR.

It recommends that the PSNI should incorporate guidance which recognises the particular vulnerabilities of young people with disabilities.

Date of review

April 2011


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