Part Two:

Brain Injury and criminal justice

International and European law for children

and young people with brain injury in the

criminal justice proceSS

Contributed by Dr Karen McAuliffe

Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Exeter

This report has a number of implications for policy and

practice, and there are also implications for legislation. In

addition to central legislation that applies the UK (or

England and Wales in a criminal justice context), there is

a multilevel system of rights and obligations applicable to

people throughout the criminal justice process with

which the UK is obligated to comply. The system exists

on three levels: international, Council of Europe, and

European Union. The UK is bound by international law

under a number of conventions and rules, including the

1985 Beijing Rules, the 1989 UN Convention on the

Rights of the Child and the 1990 Riyadh Guidelines and

Havana Rules.

Repairing Shattered Lives © Barrow Cadbury Trust

Implications of international and EU law on

UK legislation

While the UK may be under obligations in international

law, the reality is that such rights and assurances are not

always fully or even adequately protected at national

level – a fact acknowledged by international

organisations. The interaction of international and

national law can be complicated and all too often the

recommendations and proposals made by international

organisations have no real teeth. Indeed, compliance

with international law itself is often difficult to achieve in

practice, particularly when rights are formulated and

discussed in rather general terms.

However, such compliance can be more easily assured in

the context of European Union law. European Union law

differs from broader international law in a number of

ways. Most importantly, unlike traditional international

law which binds states in the international arena,

European Union law actually becomes part of the law of

its member states, binding not only states, but giving

rights to individuals that can be relied on within the

national legal system.


‘Towards an EU strategy on the rights of the child’, published by

the European Forum on the Rights of the Child. This is a

permanent group for the promotion of children’s rights in the

EU’s internal and external action, which focuses on child-friendly

justice and effective participation of children in the criminal

justice system

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