Janys Scott QC has argued that there is no conflict between the rights of children reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms set out in the European Convention on Human Rights.
In June this year the Faculty of Advocates was host to the third annual colloquium on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Expert contributions were presented from the northern and southern hemispheres to discuss “Doing the ‘Best’ for Children and Young People? Best Interests, Welfare and Well-being”. The focus was on article 3 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which requires institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies to make the best interests of the child a primary consideration.
Contributions ranged across many areas of public intervention in the lives of children in a variety of legal proceedings from issues connected with domestic violence to adoption and child offenders to child victims of offences. There were perspectives from South Asia, South Africa, the United States, Norway, New Zealand, Finland, Australia and closer to home. Inevitably the meeting was a mixture of encouragement in relation to the increasing focus on the interests of children and concern at how much more could be done, but the exchange of ideas and experiences left much for room for thought.
As a ‘home’ contributor I addressed the question of whether there is a conflict between upholding rights protected by the European Convention on Human Rights and giving primary consideration to the best interests of children. I was able to draw on recent cases in Strasbourg, in Scotland and in England to demonstrate that the European Convention on Human Rights has promoted the protection of children and encouraged good practice in cases where public authorities have sought to intervene. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is regularly drawn on to give content to the rights of children when applying the European Convention on Human Rights. Where there has been any real conflict between the rights of adults and the rights of children in relation to the exercise of family life, the best interests of children have prevailed.
Cambridge University Press are about to publish a book entitled “Implementing Article 3 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child” edited by Sutherland and Barnes. This contains all the papers from the colloquium and promises to be a good read.