, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 395-416
Date: 21 Feb 2007

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Punishment of Children Under English Law – Public and Private Vices?

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Abstract

The punishment of children in the domestic sphere and in the public domain is an issue of concern for those with care of children or whose interests lie in the protection of children’s human rights. How children are treated when they are judged to have broken rules reveals fundamental approaches to the welfare of those who have yet to reach adulthood. The effect of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in respect of how children are punished, whether in the home or as transgressors of criminal law, may be examined through two distinct but linked spheres: the private and home life context of domestic or personal punishment, and the public domain of state punishment of children in terms of criminal responsibility under English Law. Both spheres reveal attitudes towards the rights of children which suggest how human rights are accorded to particular groups in applying international obligations to a state’s domestic provision. This article seeks to explore some issues of compliance with Article 19 (the physical chastisement of children), Article 37 (the imprisonment of children being a ‚last resort’) and Article 40 (the minimum age of criminal responsibility) of the United Nations Convention on the␣Rights of the Child. The application of the rights of children and the operation of the ‚best interests’ of the child in applying Articles 19, 37 and 40 suggests that there are issues in relation to non-compliance which indicate a diminution of the separate rights of children under English Law in particular and in the operation of the best interests of the child.

Penny Booth is a Reader in Law at Staffordshire University Law School.