The Irish Juvenile Justice Alliance has welcomed an announcement from the Department of Justice that provisions for imposing fixed penalties of up to €400 on children and young people charged with minor offences will not form part of the new Criminal Justice Bill.
"We very much welcome the Department's commitment not to pursue the ill-conceived fixed penalties plan in children's cases," said Dr. Ursula Kilkelly of the of the Faculty of Law, University College Cork." We hope that this represents the renewal of a commitment by the Government to the full implementation and resourcing of the Children Act, 2001".
Earlier today, the Department of Justice announced, "The provision for a fixed penalty procedure for minor public order offences in the Criminal Justice Bill to be published on Thursday applies to persons 18yrs of age and over. It does not apply to persons under 18yrs of age." This statement comes only days after Justice Minister Michael McDowell voiced public support for extending this scheme to young people. Minister McDowell was quoted in Monday's Irish Examiner as saying, "I think the notion of those fixed penalties could have a very good effect. If a 17-year-old receives a letter at home all hell would break loose." These comments drew criticism from the Juvenile Justice Alliance, who said that any such plan would contradict the principles and provisions of the Children Act, 2001.
"Clearly there is a need to address issues related to youth offending," said Maria Corbett of the Children's Rights Alliance. "We hope today's announcement will put the focus where it belongs - on the urgent need to implement the many positive and constructive processes provided for in the Children Act, 2001."
The Irish Juvenile Justice Alliance (IJJA) is a coalition working to reform the juvenile justice system. The IJJA comprises the Children's Rights Alliance, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice and the Irish Penal Reform Trust, along with professional workers, academics, human rights activists and concerned individuals.