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IPRT welcomes passing of Children (Amendment) Bill 2015

21st July 2015

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) welcomes the passage today of the Children (Amendment) Bill 2015 as another important step towards ending the detention of children in adult prisons in Ireland. 

IPRT also notes the contributions of TDs and Senators throughout the Oireachtas debates, which centred on the particularly complex needs of children and young people who offend, and the need to support these young people in their efforts to desist from offending behaviour.

On passage of the legislation, IPRT now calls on the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr. James Reilly TD to ensure that the children detention school campus at Oberstown is fully operational and staffed so that the Children (Amendment) Bill 2015 can be commenced as soon as possible after it is signed into law. Only then will we finally close a very dark chapter in Ireland’s response to children who have committed offences.

The Children (Amendment) Bill 2015 removes legislative obstacles to ending the detention of children in St Patrick’s Institution. Among other provisions, the Bill:

  • amalgamates the three children detention schools at Oberstown into one campus, to ensure consistency of provision and flexibility according to need;
  • gives legislative effect to a 2013 High Court judgement which found that children have the same remission rights as adults; and
  • amends the process of appointing the Board of Oberstown campus, which will now be through the Public Appointments Service and not by ministerial appointment.

IPRT welcomes all these provisions in the Bill, but cautions that the children detention school model must continue to be led by an ethos of therapeutic care and education, rather than punishment.

IPRT has campaigned for the end of imprisonment of children in Ireland since the organisation was founded in 1994, and it has been a priority issue for the organisation in recent years. Read about our work in the area here.

Imprisoning children remains a serious stain on Ireland’s human rights record. Calls for closure of St Patrick’s Institution date back as far as the Whitaker Report in 1985. Ireland has also been subject to strong criticism on the international stage for the practice of imprisoning children, including by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, the UN Human Rights Council, and the UN Committee against Torture.

IPRT continues to campaign for the rights and needs of children in the youth justice system, with particular emphasis on detention as a last resort, and best practice in the child detention school system.

For further comment, please contact Fíona on: 087 181 2990

 NOTES

1. There are 18 children (boys aged 17 years) in Wheatfield Place of Detention today, 21st July 2015. (Source: Irish Prison Service)

2. Timeline:

  • April 2012: then Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Mrs Frances Fitzgerald TD announced the allocation of €50m to build a new National Children Detention Facility at Oberstown, Co. Dublin.
  • July 2012: the practice of detaining 16-year-old boys in St Patrick’s Institution ceased.
  • July 2012: the exclusion of children in prison from making complaints to the Ombudsman for Children was removed by joint ministerial order (signed by then Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Mrs Frances Fitzgerald TD and then Minister for Justice and Equality, Mr Alan Shatter TD.)
  • 30th March 2015: Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Dr James Reilly TD signed the ministerial orders required to allow the remand of 17-year-old boys by the Courts to Oberstown. However, the practice of detaining children on remand in St Patrick’s Institution continues pending the full staffing of the new children detention facility.
  • 21st July 2015: Children (Amendment Bill) 2015 is passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas.
  • July 2015: There are 18 seventeen-year-olds detained under sentence in Wheatfield Place of Detention, an adult prison.

3. IPRT Preliminary Briefing on Detention of Children in Ireland

IPRT has outlined some concerns about the detention of children in a short Briefing. Download here: http://www.iprt.ie/files/Briefing_on_Detention_of_Children_December_2014.pdf

4. Children's Rights Behind Bars

Children’s Rights Behind Bars is a collaboration between 16 European and International organisations that work for children’s rights, including IPRT. The goal of the project is to increase the respect of human rights of children deprived of liberty and improve the implementation of international juvenile justice standards to protect the rights and needs of incarcerated children. Find out more here: http://www.iprt.ie/childrens-rights-behind-bars

4. Detention of Children in Ireland: International Standards and Best Practice – IPRT Report

IPRT published a report on the detention of children in Ireland in Nov 2009, focusing on international standards and best practice. This report informed the framework of key areas in the consultation carried out by the Ombudsman for Children with the young people in St Patrick's Institution. See: http://www.iprt.ie/contents/1458

5. Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT)

IPRT is Ireland's leading non-governmental organisation campaigning for the rights of everyone in prison and the progressive reform of Irish penal policy, with prison as a last resort:www.iprt.ie

Learn more