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Cabinet approves Ministerial Order to end imprisonment of children

29th March 2017


The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) strongly welcomes the announcement by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone yesterday (Tuesday 28th March 2017) that she has secured Cabinet approval to sign a Ministerial Order that will end the sentencing of children to adult prison. This is one of the final important steps towards ending the practice of imprisoning children in Ireland, which remains a serious stain on Ireland’s human rights record.

When the order is signed, there will be no new committals of children under sentence to Wheatfield Place of Detention, an adult prison. This is very welcome.

Prison is an inappropriate, damaging response to offending by children. The detention school model is focused on a model of care, education, health and programmes that address offending, with improved outcomes for the young people, their communities, and all of society.  

Yesterday (28th March 2017) there were 7 boys aged seventeen detained under sentence in Wheatfield Place of Detention, and 1 boy aged seventeen detained in St Patrick’s Institution. In 2014, the late Inspector of Prisons described the detention of 1 or 2 boys in St Patrick's Institution as “inhumane", so it is of serious concern to that this practice continues today, however rarely.

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 has been a serious stain on Ireland’s human rights record, with St Patrick’s Institution receiving particularly damning reports over several decades.

Among those who have been particularly critical of the practice are the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture and the Inspector of Prisons, along with the Ombudsman for Children, the Special Rapporteur for Child Protection, Barnardos and the Children's Rights Alliance.

For further information or comment, contact Fíona on 087 181 2990


1. Ending imprisonment of children in Ireland

Ending the practice of sending children to St Patrick’s Institution was a key commitment 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) Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald TD announced that €50 million had been secured to progress the building of the new national children detention facility at Oberstown, Lusk, Co. Dublin and thereby facilitate the transfer of under-18s from the adult prison system in Ireland. The building work was completed in autumn 2014. Since March 2015, under-18s can be remanded by the Courts to Oberstown.

2. IPRT Campaign to end Imprisonment of Children in Ireland

Since 1994, IPRT has played a central role in maintaining pressure on Government to end the detention of children in the prison system in Ireland. Specific actions by IPRT contributed to the commitments in 2012 are detailed here: Case Study 2: Imprisonment of Children in Ireland

3. Children in Wheatfield Place of Detention

Today, Wednesday 29th March 2017, there are 8 boys aged 17 detained under sentence in Wheatfield Place of Detention, an adult prison environment, in breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of the child: http://www.irishprisons.ie/wp-content/uploads/documents_pdf/29-March-2017.pdf

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

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