Fred Kissack addresses the UN - Sept 2000
UNITED NATIONS - PRESS RELEASE CRC 25th session 21 September 2000 Morning
Expert, in Preliminary Remarks on the Report of the Isle of Man, Urges Legislator to Change Public Attitude, Including of Educational Authorities
The Committee on the Rights of the Child started this morning its consideration of reports presented to it by the United Kingdom on how its Overseas Territories and the Isle of Man were implementing the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Introducing the report of the United Kingdom on the Isle of Man, Fred Kissack, Chief Secretary of the Government and Head of the Civil Service, said there had been an increase in the number of reported instances of child abuse on the Island over recent years; there were also some children who took drugs or who misused alcohol and solvents. He also said that there were unwanted pregnancies; significant levels of crime attributable to children and young persons; and more children in care.
This morning's discussion focused on the main subjects of the general measures of implementation of the Convention; definition of the child; general principles; and civil rights and freedoms.
The United Kingdom delegation was led by Paul Fifoot, a Consultant for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The Isle of Man team also comprised John Cortlett, Attorney General of the Isle of Man; and David Cooke, Director of Social Services of the Isle of Man.
Included in the second team for the Overseas Territories were Gillian Dare of the Overseas Territories Department at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Ian Christie and Susan Dicken, Legal Advisors at the Office; Nia James, Human Rights Policy Department at the Commonwealth Office; Luelle Todd, Manager of Corporate Services of Bermuda; Eugenia O'Neal, Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of Health of the British Virgin Islands; Ivy Ellick, Chief Administrative Health and Social Services Officer of St. Helena; Alric Taylor, Permanent Secretary for Education, Health and Community Services of Montserrat; David Langridge, Director of Education of the Falklands; and Kevin Lyne of the Human Rights Section at the United Kingdom's Mission at Geneva.
After concluding examination of the report of the Isle of Man, a Committee expert said in preliminary remarks that the public attitude in the consideration of a child as an evolving human being had been observed in the Isle of Man. The legislator should take the initiative to change public attitude, including of educational authorities. Another expert said that the authorities should be encouraged to involve the general public in the discussion on child issues.
Final, written conclusions and recommendations on the reports of the United Kingdom will be issued towards the end of the three-week session of the Committee which concludes on 6 October.
Before the meeting was adjourned, the second part of the United Kingdom's reports was introduced by the second team of the delegation.
As one of the 191 States parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the United Kingdom must submit to the Committee periodic summaries of its efforts designed to implement the provisions of the treaty.
The Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. to continue its consideration of the reports of the Un ited Kingdom.
Reports of the United Kingdom
The reports of the United Kingdom (document CRC/C/11/Add.19 and CRC/C/41/Add. 7 and 9) contain the initial reports relating to the Isle of Man, the Falkland Islands, Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Pitcairn Island, St. Helena and its dependencies, and the Turks and Caicos Islands. The reports provide a wide range of information on the application of the legislative and administrative provisions of the Convention. The Convention, having been ratified by the United Kingdom, is extended to these territories as dependants of that country.
The reports enumerate the measures taken so far by each territory on an article-by-article basis explaining the circumstances in which the provisions of the Convention are implemented. Further, the reports note the different legal provisions of each territory in which the treaty is applied. Developments made in the fields of health, education and cultural activities in these territories are also mentioned in the reports.
Introduction of Report on the Isle of Man
FRED KISSACK, Chief Secretary and Head of the Civil Service of the Government of the Isle of Man , said the Island was part of the British Isles and although it was an ancient Kingdom in its own right, it was now a dependency of the British Crown. The United Kingdom had certain responsibilities for the Island in the field of defence, external representation and ultimately for the good government of the Island. However, the Island had its own parliament, judiciary and administration and was essentially autonomous and self-governing.
The Isle of Man Government took its responsibilities under international conventions seriously and was committed to providing the best services that it could for all its people including its children, Mr. Kissack said. With regard to children, there were children with problems and problem parents. There had been an increase in the number of reported instances of child abuse on the Island over recent years. There were some children who took drugs or who misused alcohol and solvents. There were unwanted pregnancies; significant levels of crime attributable to children and young persons; and more children in care. The legislation on children also needed updating.
Mr. Kissack said the coming legislative year in the Isle of Man was an interesting one in relation to the rights of the child. A series of bills would be introduced: Children and Young Persons Bill, Adoption Bill and Education Bill. The Bill on Education, once entered into force, would put into statute law the Department of Education's policy that there should be no corporal punishment in schools.
The representative of the United Kingdom responded to questions raised by Committee members who sought explanations on the relationship between the United Kingdom and the dependent territories before dealing with the reports on those territories. The delegate said any international affairs concerning each island was first referred to them by the Government of the United Kingdom.
With regard to the white paper presented to the European Union concerning the dependent territories, the representative said the paper was not a problem of uncertainty nor a human rights issue. The implementation of any convention extended to a territory was totally left to the Government of each island. The local ministers and legislative bodies held responsibility for the implementation of the provisions of the conventions.
Responding to a question on the responsibilities of the United Kingdom towards the territories, the representative said that there had been a devolving tendency of authority since the status of the territories was converted from colonial into dependent territories. However, obligations emanating from international treaties were observed in all territories in a consi stent and similar manner.
With regards to reservations, the delegation said employment legislation in the United Kingdom did not treat persons under 18, but over the school-leaving age, as children, but as "young people". For that reason, the United Kingdom reserved the right to continue to apply article 32 of the Convention subject to such employment legislation. Article 32 provided that States parties should recognise the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that was likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child's education, among other things.
In response to other questions concerning the Isle of Man, the representative of that Island said that the idea of an Ombudsman was secondary because of the accessibility of the legislators by citizens. The 39 members of parliament were individually considered as Ombudsmen.
A question was raised on the relation between the Isle of Man and the United Kingdom to which the representative said that the relation between the two dated back many centuries, while relations as an overseas territory were recent due to colonialism; and the Isle of Man had the status of "Crown Dependency" while the rest were under the category of "Overseas Territories".
There was no institutional corporal punishment either in private or public schools on the Isle of Man, the delegate said.
To further queries put by Committee members, the delegation said young offenders were imprisoned separately from convicted adults. It was only on some occasions that adult and young prisoners were mixed.
The delegation further said the issue of ageing had been reversed with the growing prosperity of the Island prompting growth in the population. The Island had had a declining population in which annually, deaths had exceeded births and the population had only been sustained by immigration. The improvement in the age profile had been caused by an increase in the number of children.
Asked whether there was an intention to raise the legal minimum age of criminal responsibility which was currently set at 10 years, the delegation said there was no intention. However, in relation to children who were over 10 but under the age of 14 years, there was a presumption that a child was incapable to committing a criminal offence.
The Island's legislation did not discriminate against children on the basis of any of the grounds set out in the Convention, the delegation said. There was no statute which expressly protected children against discrimination, but the policy of the Government was to ensure that there was no such discrimination in the exercise of its functions.
Preliminary Observations and Recommendations
Following its completion of the first part of its consideration of the United Kingdom reports, one of the Committee's experts remarked that there had been a real dialogue between the Committee and the members of the delegation.
The expert said the public attitude in the consideration of a child as an evolving human being had been observed in the Isle of Man. The legislator should take the initiative to change public attitude, including educational authorities.
Another expert also said that the authorities should be encouraged to involve the general public in the discussion on child issues.
Introduction of Report on Overseas Territories
PAUL FIFOOT (United Kingdom ) said the territories under consideration ran from the 2 square miles of Pitcairn and the 34 square miles of Ascension to the scattered 4,700 square miles of the Falklands. The number of people living in the territories was also disparate.
Mr. Fifoot said the extent to which the territories were self governing in matters which fell within the Convention should be kept in mind. Bermuda and the Caribbean Territories had full internal self-government with their own legislature and form of ministerial government. The British Government, through its Governor, had responsibilities in th e local implication of the conventions. However, the division of responsibilities in the Falkland Islands and St. Helena, was not so clear cut.