Review of children in police custody announced
Wellington, Dec 10 NZPA - The treatment of children in police custody is to be reviewed to make sure it meets standards set out under a United Nations framework.
The Human Rights Commission (HRC), the Office of the Children's Commissioner and the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) will work together in the review, the first of its kind in New Zealand.
The Joint Thematic Review of Children and Young Persons' Detention Issues (JTR) will look at broad questions of policy, practice and procedure relating to those aged under 17, but will not focus on individual cases.
The review aims to examine national police and Child, Youth and Family policy and identify national and international standards that could be applied.
"We may find practices that police are doing well when it comes to kids and call for that to be applied across the country," IPCA spokeswoman Kathryn Street said.
She said the review was about taking preventive measures and would hopefully be completed within the financial year.
Recommendations will be made on how to improve the quality and consistency of treatment of children in custody.
HRC spokeswoman Kat Ryan said the review had not been generated by any particular concerns but HRC was aware that changes in recent legislation might lead to an increase of children in police cells.
"This would be a reverse in progress after a period where there has been a reduction in the number of young people held in police cells."
Ms Ryan told NZPA that OPCAT (Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture) ensured there were checks not only on detention facilities but also on policies and procedures.
OPCAT was ratified in New Zealand in 2007 and requires member nations to have a system of inspecting places of detention, including police cells and secure residences for children and young persons.
"Police cells were not built to hold children and young people, so it is imperative assessments of these facilities take into account the special requirements of young people," Ms Ryan said.
IPCA chairwoman, Justice Lowell Goddard, said children and young persons were especially vulnerable by virtue of their age and, as such, reviewing the issues that arose for them in custody was an important initiative in fulfilling our preventive mandate under OPCAT,
The IPCA inspections of custodial facilities had been well-received by police and the same support was expected for this review, she said.
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