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ERG puts focus on facilities for juvenile offenders

The Equality Rights Group has highlighted “the inadequacy” of Gibraltar’s systems for dealing with juvenile offenders.

In doing so the Group flagged the 2015 report of the Council of Europe’s CPT Committee following a visit to Gibraltar’s detention facilities the year before.

That report pointed out that the HM Windmill Hill Prison “is not a suitable place to accommodate juveniles”, and goes on to add that as long as juveniles are kept there “additional efforts must be made to provide them with a full range of purposeful activities and socio-educative support.”

“It was their inspection that first shone a spotlight on the inadequacy of our systems for dealing with the reality of juvenile convicted offenders here in Gibraltar,” the ERG said in a statement, adding that three years later it is not satisfied there has been a substantial movement in this direction.

Nonetheless, the pressure group said it was “glad” to hear the parliamentary statement by the Minister for Justice, Neil Costa, regarding indications that the Government has started to move on the possibility of creating separate facilities for juvenile offenders.

But, the ERG said it was less satisfied by the lack of concrete details or commitment regarding the Committee’s points in respect of providing purposeful activities to be made available for juveniles “not ‘possibly’, not ‘if’ but now as we speak and during the period that young prisoners are still held in a prison…”.

“Having initially followed up the Government’s responses to the Committee’s recommendations, ERG has sought input from other concerned and implicated Civil Society NGO’s, notably the Gibraltar Mental Welfare Society and rehabilitation group Stay Clean.”
“Together, we have taken the due time to carefully study Government’s specific responses to a range of areas raised by the Committee.”

‘We will shortly be submitting a further follow-up document of enquiry to the Minister for Justice, in the hope that, having waited a substantial period of time in the interim, the many previous responses in which the Ministry’s only indication was that the matter was ‘under consideration’ will now have, in the main, been settled and information made available for public information and scrutiny,’ the statement ended.

Meanwhile, the Group has yet again raised the fact that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has yet to be extended to Gibraltar.

“Equality Rights Group is not satisfied that sufficient importance and priority are being given to the rights of young people.”
“We are lagging behind,” the group’s Chairman, Felix Alvarez said.

The UK ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in December 1991 but twenty-five years later, Gibraltar’s young people still do not have the same protections, the ERG said.

The Group has been following up this “unacceptable indifference” for some years now.

“Previous Justice Minister, Gilbert Licudi, followed up on our enquiries and assured us all bureaucracy had now been satisfied in order for the UK to extend the Convention to our children on the Rock.”

“Yet we have seen Government take no further action, and it is time Ministers showed interest on this matter by pressing on the British Government to delay no more.”

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