IPRT - Irish Penal Reform Trust

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Government progress on closure of St Patrick’s Institution must be matched by commitments to end detention of children in Wheatfield

7th December 2015

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) strongly welcomes the publication by Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald TD of the Prisons Bill 2015, which will provide for the closure of St Patrick’s Institution. This concrete progress by Government on ending the detention of children in St Patrick’s Institution comes after decades of inaction by previous Governments on one of Ireland’s most serious human rights breaches.

However, IPRT remains concerned that 13 boys are currently detained under sentence in Wheatfield Place of Detention, an adult prison environment, in contravention of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. An adult prison facility is an entirely inappropriate place to hold children, and runs contrary to best practice in dealing effectively with children in conflict with the law. To this end, IPRT is now calling on all parties to ensure that a commitment to ending the practice of detaining children in adult prison facilities in Ireland is included in the next Programme for Government.

Welcoming the publication of the Prisons Bill 2015, IPRT Executive Director Deirdre Malone said:

“We are delighted to see the publication of this important piece of legislation which will finally consign the name of St. Patrick’s Institution to history. However it is vital that we do not forget that the passage of this Bill does not signal the end of the imprisonment of all children in adult facilities in Ireland. It is vital that an express commitment to ending the practice of detaining children in adult prison facilities in Ireland is included in the next Programme for Government.”

IPRT has campaigned for the end of imprisonment of children in Ireland since the organisation was founded in 1994. The detention of children in the adult prison system remains a serious stain on Ireland’s human rights record, with St Patrick’s Institution in particular receiving consistently damning reports from national and international monitoring bodies, dating back to the Whitaker Report in 1985.

For queries or further comment, contact IPRT on: 087 181 2990

NOTES:

1. The Prisons Bill 2015 which will provide for the closure of St. Patrick’s Institution is scheduled for consideration this week and has been introduced into Seanad at Second Stage. See: http://www.oireachtas.ie/viewdoc.asp?fn=/documents/bills28/bills/2015/11015/document1.htm

2. Children in adult prison facilities in Ireland

On Thursday 3rd December 2015, there was 1 boy aged seventeen on remand in St Patrick’s Institution, and 13 boys aged seventeen detained under sentence at Wheatfield Place of Detention: http://www.irishprisons.ie/images/dailynumbers/03_december_2015.pdf

3. Government progress 2011-2015

A key commitment to ending the practice of detaining children in St Patrick's Institution was included in the Programme for Government 2011-2016. On 2nd April 2012, then Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (and current Minister for Justice and Equality) Frances Fitzgerald TD announced that €50 million had been secured to progress the building ofthe new national children detention facility at Oberstown, Lusk, Co. Dublin in order to facilitate the transfer of under-18s from the adult prison system in Ireland.

Since Monday 30th March 2015, boys aged 17 can be remanded in custody to the national children detention school campus at Oberstown, Co. Dublin. Minister for Children and Youth affairs, Dr James Reilly TD, signed the ministerial orders required to end the practice of remanding children to St Patrick’s Institution on 17th March 2015. The enactment of the Children (Amendment) Act 2015 earlier this year formed another part of the process towards ending detention of children in St Patrick’s Institution.

4. Irish Penal Reform Trust (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