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

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

Telegraph: This case was no aberration - it's the system we created 26th May 2010

The case for raising the age of criminal responsibility comes to the fore again in England. Read more

Sunday Tribune: €500k a year each to house troubled teens 23rd May 2010

The levels of funding for Children Detention Schools should be matched for prevention and early intervention schemes. Read more

Guardian: Magistrate defends 'scum' description of teenage vandals 18th May 2010

Magistrate who branded two teenage boys 'absolute scum' claims he was merely using their language to get through to them. Read more

US Supreme Court Repeal Life Without Parole for Juveniles 17th May 2010 YouTube

The US Supreme Court has repealed laws which enabled states to imprison children convicted of non-homicide offences without the possibility of parole. Read more

Irish Examiner: Roll-out of Successful Juvenile Programme 13th May 2010

A scheme which showed a 64% drop in youth crime is to be rolled out nationally. Read more

Guardian: Spending Early on Children in Care 31st March 2010

The complex needs of children in care - why investing in their future is investing in our own. Read more

Sunday Independent: Juvenile Detention Centre Plans Shelved as Funds Fall 29th March 2010

Plans to build a new juvenile detention centre at Lusk, Co. Dublin to replace St Patrick's institution have been once again pushed back with no planned completion date. Read more

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