Re-imaging Justice for Youth through a Children’s Rights Lens: A Case Study

Dr. Faith Gordon1

1Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

November 2019 marked the 30 year anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).  The CRC is one of the most ratified rights treaties in history and it plays an important role in defining as well as upholding the rights of children. The Australian Government signed up to the Convention in 1990.  Despite this, Australia still does not have a national strategy or national measures to ensure the implementation of appropriate protection of children’s rights (Fitz-Gibbon and Gordon, 2018). In the context of the criminal justice system, significant concerns about the state of children’s rights in Australia, have been made at international, national and localised levels (UNCRC, 2012). One such example is the findings of The Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory (2017), which confirmed extensive human rights breaches, with children detained in the Northern Territory being mistreated, verbally abused, isolated or left alone for long periods. Similar concerns about gross violations of the rights of children held in detention and in other levels of the criminal justice system in Australia are echoed in the recent UNICEF national coalition NGO report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, entitled: The Children’s Report (2018). The report’s key recommendations call on the Australian Government to immediately review and amend youth justice legislation, policies and practices to ensure that all children are treated consistent with the Beijing Rules and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This paper will explore case studies on pre-charge and post-charge identification of children in conflict with the law in the digital age. Drawing on qualitative research data, it will argue that the ramifications of policies and decisions which ‘name and shame’ have long lasting consequences for the lives, experiences and prospects of children and young people.  Such policies and practices also clearly breach the UNCRC, Beijing Rules and the Riyadh Guidelines.

Dr. Faith Gordon is a Lecturer in Criminology at Monash University and Director of the Interdisciplinary International Youth Justice Network. Faith has developed an international scholarly and advocacy reputation in the area of the rights of children in conflict with the law and specifically in the dynamics of youth justice, the media’s treatment of youth, young people’s engagement with the media, policing and legal responses.  Her first sole-authored monograph built on her PhD study and post-doctoral funded project, involving large-scale fieldwork involved over 150 children, as well as workshops with journalists, editors, policymakers, politicians, police and those working in the NGO sector.  Faith’s research has been referenced by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (2015); in Judicial Review hearings at the N Ireland High Court (2016; 2017) and most recently, in the UK Court of Appeal (2019).


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