Ban on children’s outdoor sport to be challenged as rights breach

Stephen Atherton
Stephen Atherton

A ban on children’s outdoor sport in Northern Ireland during the Covid-19 pandemic is a “clear violation” of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, a Magherafelt lawyer has said.

Stephen Atherton, director at John J McNally & Co Solicitors, has announced his intention to bring a judicial review against the Northern Ireland Executive ahead of the commencement of the two-week “circuit breaker” restrictions from tomorrow.

He said ministers’ decision to ban children’s outdoor sports, outside of a school environment, is “an unconscionable continuation of a flawed and unlawful policy”.

Mr Atherton said: “This decision was taken without consideration of the impact on children, without publication of any evidence that children’s sport outside contributes to the spread of the virus and crucially without consultation with statutory agencies tasked with the protection of children’s rights.

“Our children have been left terrified, traumatised and stigmatised by society’s response to the pandemic, and the decision of the Executive to extend the ban on participation in their sport will visit further physical and emotional harm upon them.

“For many children, they are now facing the bleak prospect of a full year without access to the sports that they love, sports that give them such welcome relief from the stress of the pandemic. They cannot be compensated for the loss of a year of their childhood.

“Children are now facing a winter constrained within their family homes, glued to TV and computer screens. The actions of the executive are a clear violation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

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