10 December 2010 - The treatment and conditions experienced by children and young people in Police custody is to be jointly reviewed by three oversight agencies to ensure it is safe, humane, and meets international standards.
The review is being conducted under the United Nations OPCAT framework (Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture), which was ratified by New Zealand in 2007. OPCAT requires its member nations to have a system of inspecting places of detention, including Police cells and secure residences for children and young persons.
OPCAT places an emphasis on prevention and education measures to stop abuses happening in the first place, and in New Zealand this is undertaken by a number of independent agencies. The Joint Thematic Review of Children and Young Persons’ Detention Issues (JTR) will be shared by three of these agencies: the Independent Police Conduct Authority; the Office of the Children’s Commissioner; and the Human Rights Commission.
The JTR is the first of its kind under OPCAT in this country, and fulfils New Zealand’s obligation to the UN by adopting a preventive approach. It is designed to review broad questions of policy, practice, and procedure, rather than focusing exclusively on any individual matter. For the purposes of the JTR, a child or young person is someone under the age of 17.
The Chair of the Independent Police Conduct Authority, Justice Lowell Goddard, said the Authority’s OPCAT team already visits 30 Police detention facilities a year to inspect and monitor the conditions and treatment for all people in Police custody.
“The issue of children and young persons in custody has particular human rights significance. Children and young persons are especially vulnerable by virtue of their age and, as such, reviewing the issues that arise for them in custody is an important initiative in fulfilling our preventive mandate under OPCAT. The Authority’s inspections of custodial facilities have been well-received by the Police officers who work in this environment. I envisage that the same support will be extended to the review of children and young persons’ detention issues,” she said.
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