Keir Starmer and Coram call for children's rights to be upheld at Rights without Remedies seminar

Published: Thursday 9th May 2019

Sir Keir Starmer QC MP, the Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, has lamented that the government made ‘a political choice’ not to transpose the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, with its explicit commitment to the fundamental rights of the child, into domestic law under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. He also joined Coram in calling for the full incorporation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into UK law.

Sir Keir, MP for Holborn and St Pancras and was previously Director of Public Prosecutions and Head of the Crown Prosecution Service, was the principal speaker at Rights without Remedies, a Coram event held to consider the future of children’s rights in an uncertain world. He set out the evolution of children’s rights and the global picture since the end of World War Two, before considering the challenges of Brexit to the rights system that has evolved since.

Also on the panel were Kamena Dorling, Group Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Coram, Helen Stalford, Professor of Law at University of Liverpool and Alexandra Conroy Harris, a legal consultant who specialises in family law, particularly law affecting adoption, fostering and care at CoramBAAF.  A recording of the event can be viewed here, and a copy of Sir Keir’s speech can be read here.

In his remarks Sir Keir also highlighted the importance of legal aid based on the principle of equal access to and protection under the law regardless of financial circumstances, as "access to justice is falling away in our lifetime."

Coram’s Kamena Dorling highlighted the cases of thousands of vulnerable children and young people not being able to access education, healthcare and other services due to the lack of consideration of children’s rights in the development of law and policy and called for further legal support, advocacy and public legal education for children and young people on their rights.

She said: “Children’s rights are only a reality if children and young people are able to understand what those rights are and can take action to exercise those rights in practice. They need to know what they are entitled and what steps they might be able to take. For many, further legal advice is essential. Alongside greater empowerment and improved support, we want to see a genuine, systemic change so that all children have their rights upheld and considered in all decisions affecting them.”

Professor Helen Stalford highlighted the EU’s “unparalleled legal, political and financial resources” to uphold children’s rights and argued that the UK Parliament and the public had not “quite grasped the threat that Brexit poses to our ability to deliver on our children’s rights commitments in the future”. 

Alexandra Conroy-Harris echoed this sentiment and underlined the uniquely vulnerable position of children who do not have parents who are in a position to advocate for them. She added that these children rely on the government to enforce their rights and expressed her concern that the government’s approach to Brexit centred solely on “trade and money” and that nobody was addressing “how children’s rights are going to be affected”.

As our local MP, Sir Keir also paid tribute to Coram’s work in supporting vulnerable children and expressed his pride at having Coram in his constituency. In conclusion he said: “Internationalism and a belief in the radical power of human rights are at the heart of my thinking and belief, we owe it to the next generation to continue to champion internationalism and the radical power of human rights and to continually push further as we face different challenges.”