Youth Justice

Artane Industrial School

Ireland has a long history of poor responses to offending behaviour by children. A core strand to IPRT's work since its establishment in 1994 has been the promotion of a more effective youth justice system, with emphasis on non-custodial alternatives, diversion, early intervention and prevention strategies and programmes. Central to our work was ending the practice of detaining children in adult prisons, which was in breach of international human rights standards and a serious stain on Ireland's human rights record.

International human rights standards, and in particular the provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, are clear that custody for children should only be used as a last resort and for the minimum required period of time. All efforts should be made to apply alternatives to detention to ensure that such a measure is only used in exceptional circumstances.

In Ireland, the Children Act 2001 recognizes the principle of detention as a last resort. The Act prohibits the imprisonment of children and the Criminal Justice Act 2006 makes provision for all children less than 18 years of age to be detained in Children Detention Schools. 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. The Irish Youth Justice Service is responsible for the Children Detention Schools, within the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

Following years of sustained advocacy by IPRT, along with many national and international bodies, in 2012 the detention of boys aged under 17 at St Patrick's Institution ended. In March 2017, a Ministerial Order ended the sentencing of children aged under 18 to adult prison in Ireland, and in April 2017, St. Patrick’s Institution was finally closed. Since September 2017 boys aged under 18 are no longer detained in the adult prison system.

IPRT continues to work towards progressive change in youth justice policies and practice, as well as engaging with wider policy and practice issues relating to youth justice, such as the provision of alternatives to detention, diversion and early intervention programmes. 

Oberstown 2018 sml

RTÉ: Decision to withhold publication of a key review of operations at Oberstown 11th November 2018

RTÉ Radio One ‘This Week’ report on the decision to withhold publication an Operational Review of Oberstown Detention Campus conducted in 2016/17. Read more

UK: User Voice releases 'Nitty Drugs & Broken Trust' 6th November 2018

User Voice releases report on the use of New or Novel psychoactive Substances (NPS) among children and young people in secure estates in England. Read more

Irish Examiner: Improvements at youth detention facility welcomed but ‘more effort needed’ 11th October 2018

Noel Baker reports on the publication of the HIQA unannounced inspection report on Oberstown Children Detention Campus. Read more

Significant improvements on Oberstown Campus welcome but inadequate monitoring of ‘restrictive practices’ on children must be addressed – IPRT 10th October 2018

ADVISORY: The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) welcome improvements in the care provided to children at Oberstown Children Detention Campus, however, IPRT is concerned at inadequate monitoring of the use of physical interventions and restraints. Read more

Publication of Oberstown Annual Report 2016/2017 27th September 2018

Oberstown Children Detention Campus has published its Annual Report for 2016/2017. Read more

UK: Sentencing Young Adults 20th September 2018

The Howard League for Penal Reform has published research on the need for the development of formal sentencing principles for young adults. Read more

Oberstown: Review Implementation Group reports 28th June 2018

The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has published the Interim and Final Reports of the Review Implementation Group of Oberstown Children Detention Campus. Read more

NI: Inspection report on Juvenile Justice Centre 20th June 2018

The Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI) has published an inspection report on the Woodlands Juvenile Justice Centre (JJC). Read more

Oberstown Children Detention Campus: Key characteristics of young people in detention for Q1 2018 18th June 2018

Data shows a high number of young people held on remand and a high prevalence of mental health problems. Read more

Call For Submissions: Addressing the Over-Representation of Children in Care in the Criminal Justice System 16th March 2018

The Irish Penal Reform Trust has commissioned research on the over-representation of children in care or with care experience in the criminal justice system. Read more

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