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. 

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UK: From Playground to Prison: The Case for Reviewing the Age of Criminal Responsibility 13th September 2010 PDF documents

According to a new report released by children's charity Barnardos, the age of criminal responsibility should be lifted from ten to twelve in England and Wales. This would bring it into line with other countries, including Ireland. Read more

UK: A Joint Inspection of Youth Crime Prevention (report) 9th September 2010

HMI Constabulary, HMI Probation, Care Quality Commission and Healthcare Inspectorate Wales have produced a report entitled 'A Joint Inspection of Youth Crime Prevention'. The report reveals a number of positive findings but also emphasises that the work to turn children away from crime needs to be more focused. Read more

Guardian: Government climbdown on detention of children in immigration centres 9th September 2010

UK Immigration minister Damian Green announces intention to 'minimise' detention of children rather than end practice. Read more

Collaboration with Courts: Reducing Imprisonment Rates for Young People 7th September 2010

Children and Young People Now reports on some youth justice schemes in England which are successfully reducing the number of young people imprisoned. Read more

Garda Diversion Programme Report 2009 19th August 2010

The Annual Report of the Committee Appointed to Monitor the Effectiveness of the Diversion Programme has been published. The Diversion Programme is a scheme for dealing with young people who commit offences. Read more

Irish Youth Justice Service Annual Report 2009 11th August 2010 PDF documents

The Irish Youth Justice Service has released its annual report detailing the progress made on the implementation of the National Youth Justice Strategy throughout the course of 2009. Read more

NY and UK: Use of restraint in youth custody 19th July 2010

NY Times reports on a significant expansion of mental health services for youths in custody and new restrictions on the use of physical restraint, just as the Observer (UK) reports on shocking revelations about 'Physical Control in Care' manual used in private jails for young offenders. Read more

Irish Examiner: Lack of supports for vulnerable young people 16th July 2010

Jennifer Hough, in the second part of an Irish Examiner special investigation on youth justice, highlights issues of concern within the juvenile criminal justice system and the lack of early intervention services made available to young offenders. Read more

Irish Examiner: Led Astray - Lost Young Lives 15th July 2010

In a 2-day special investigation in the 'Irish Examiner', Jennifer Hough examines how to balance appropriate punishment of young offenders with victims' rights. Read more

England & Wales: New report urges greater use of restorative justice in reducing youth offending 15th July 2010

Restorative justice crucial to making a fresh start in tackling youth crime, according to a new report. ‘Time for a Fresh Start’ is the result of the first-ever independent inquiry into youth crime and antisocial behaviour. Read more

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