The right to be treated fairly by the law
Your rights under the UNCRC
UNCRC, Article 40: It’s your right to have legal support if you need it and to be treated fairly by the law
UNCRC, Article 37: It’s your right not to be punished in a cruel or harmful way. It’s your right to be free from torture.
Your rights under Irish law:
Under Article 40 of the Irish Constitution, it’s your right to be treated equally before the law.
Under the Children Act 2001, it’s your right that Gardaí don’t interview you or ask for a written statement, unless your parent/guardian or other adult is in the same room as you.
Under the Offences against the State Act 1939, it’s your right to be told the reasons why you are under arrest.
Did you know?
- Garda Youth Diversion Projects are local community projects that support young people aged 12-18 move away from behaving in a way that might get them, or their friends, into trouble with the law.
- The Irish Youth Justice Service funds the Garda Youth Diversion Projects. In 2016, there were 106 projects all over the country.
- In Ireland, the age of criminal responsibility is 12. This means that a child under the age of 12 cannot be charged with a crime. However, for certain types of very serious crime (e.g. murder), 10 and 11 year old children can be charged.
- In early 2016, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended that Ireland should increase the age of criminal responsibility from 12 to 14 years old.
- A young person can be searched by the gardaí without their consent or the consent of their parent/guardian if the gardaí have good reason to think the young person has committed an offence.
- If a young person under 18 is convicted of an offence, they may receive a fine, be placed on probation or, if the offence is serious, sent to a place of detention.
- In March 2017, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone announced that children under the age of 18 who committed crimes would no longer be placed in adult prisons, and instead be sent to Oberstown Children Detention Campus.
- According to research from 2016 in Ireland feel they have a negative relationship with the gardai, and say they have an unjustified bad reputation. They say that if they are with their friends in a park, they are moved along by the guards for no reason.
- One aim of Goal 16 (‘Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions’) of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals is to make sure that all people have equal access to justice.
Hear your right – read by Caoimhe Ní Scolaí
What children and young people are saying
- “I want more police presence in the area to monitor the lads and girls who are hanging around. A lot of residents are scared of living in the blocks where we live, and if the police would come around more often it would make the place safer.” -14 year old girl “It’s good that a new garda station is being built in our local community.” – Group of boys and girls, Dublin “I want less robberies near my house.” – Young person, Clare “Me and my friends were hanging around and the guards stopped and asked us to move and I said ‘where do we go’ and even when you try to explain, they caution you straight away.” “Children and young people should have the right to have a voice and be heard in court proceedings because you should have the right to speak up for yourself.” – Group of girls, Dublin “I think there should be someone else to deal with your problem before the police or judges get involved.” “Some young people may feel intimidated and scared of the police or the courtroom could feel like such a daunting place.”
Find out more
- The Courts Service – The Courts Service has information about how the courts work in Ireland and visiting a court with your class
- Know Your Rights – Find out more about children’s rights and the gardaí in Know Your Rights, a guide by the ICCL and the Children’s Rights Alliance
- Children of Prisoners Europe – Listen to children with imprisoned parents speak about their experiences in a short video by Children of Prisoners Europe
Explore More – Resource materials for Teachers & Educators
- Courts Service – Let’s Look at the Law. A CSPE resource to support young people to learn about the legal system and the courts in Ireland.
- World’s Largest Lesson - A range of resources to support children and young people of different ages to learn about and take action relating to the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals, which include a goal relating to peace, justice and strong institutions (Goal 16).
- EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) – ‘Children and justice: your right to be heard’. A short animation (00:43 secs) highlighting children’s right to be heard in the context of court proceedings, which might be used as a starting point for discussion with children and young people (2015).
- United Nations – ‘Government and the Law’. Activities for children and young people to explore the role of the law and courts in human rights. In Teaching Human Rights: Practical Activities for Primary and Secondary Schools (2004), pp.57-62.
- Council of Europe – ‘Expert: Treat child offenders as children not adults.’ Podcast on the protection of children’s rights in detention in Council of Europe member States, which could be used in the context of work with young people to examine issues relating to children’s rights in juvenile justice (2012).