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#RatifyCPRD – What’s needs to be done?

31/01/2017 #RatifyCPRD – What’s needs to be done?

 

Ten years after it was adopted by the United Nations, Ireland still hasn’t ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

The Disability (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill is currently before the Dáil. It aims to fix most of the outstanding obstacles to ratification of the CRPD. Many things are covered but there are some things that are still outstanding:

Deprivation of Liberty: Some of Ireland’s laws don’t uphold a person’s right to Article 14 upholds a person’s right to not be deprived of their liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. Some of Ireland’s laws are not in line with this but they have not been changed by the new Bill. The plan is to introduce amendments at Committee Stage but we need to know what the plans are so that people with disabilities can give their perspectives.

Criminal Law: If you are found by the District Court to be unfit to plead guilty because you lack decision making capacity, your case is referred to a higher court which will have a harsher sentencing regime. In 2010, the High Court found that this caused a constitutional issue for people with disabilities who become subject to a harsher sentencing regime just because they have a disability. This has not been resolved by the new Bill.

Removal of ‘unsound mind’: The archaic term ‘unsound mind’ is used across many pieces of legislation including the recent Companies Act 2014. The Bill was supposed to amend these across all legislation but this has not been done.

Focal point: The Convention requires States to have a focal point within the government for matters relating to the implementation of the Convention. The Department of Justice and Equality is already the focal point at an administrative level but this has not been place on a statutory footing in the Bill.

What needs to change in the Bill?

The Bill recognises that people who are deaf should not be excluded from participation in a jury simply because they need the support of an Irish Sign Language interpreter. Reasonable accommodation should also be extended to people with other disabilities. Section 1(b) amends the 1976 Juries Act provisions in relation to ineligible people by relating ineligibility to capacity rather than disability. This does not go far enough. It would be more appropriate to create a system which would find a person ineligible for jury duty if he or she does not, in the opinion of the court, have the ability to perform the functions required of a juror, following the provision of reasonable accommodation.

What else is left to do before ratification of the UNCRPD?

Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Bill: This Act is in place but has not been commenced. In the Dáil on the 26th January, Minister Finian McGrath TD suggested that the Act would need to be commenced before ratification. This is of concern because there is a great deal of work to be done to prepare for this new, wide ranging legislation which fundamentally reforms how people are supported to make decisions.

Law relating to sexual relationships for people with intellectual disabilities: Sexual relationships are currently outlawed for people with intellectual disabilities in Ireland. A new law the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015 will change this to consider whether a person has capacity to take part in a sexual relationship. It is hoped that this Bill will become Law in the next few weeks.

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