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

NYCI: Working With Young People Involved in the Juvenile Justice System 14th December 2009

A useful resource created for those working with children, with special attention given to those children in conflict with the law. Read more

UK: 'Healthy Children, Safer Communities' 8th December 2009

A new cross-government strategy to promote the health and well-being of children and young people in contact with the youth justice system. Read more

U R Boss: new youth justice project from Howard League 3rd December 2009 YouTube

U R Boss is a ground breaking youth justice project in the UK that provides an enhanced legal service shaped by and for young people in custody and those recently released into the community. Read more

Launch of IPRT report on Detention of Children 30th November 2009

IPRT launched a new research report, 'Detention of Children in Ireland: International Standards and Best Practice' on 30th November 2009 at Pearse Street Library, Dublin 2. Read more

Ireland's Youth Justice in Action Solidarity Day: June 2009 20th November 2009 YouTube

Ireland's Youth Justice in Action Solidarity Day took place 17th June 2009. As part of their activities, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform was questioned on the continuing detention of 16 year olds in St Patrick's Institution. Read more

Report highlights concerns over care for asylum seeking children. 19th November 2009

A report by the Ombudsman for Children, Emily Logan, highlights the inadequate service provision of care for asylum seeking children. Read more

Young offenders in custody provided with an opportunity to influence UK Crime Policy. 19th November 2009

A project designed to provide an opportunity for young people in custody to influence government policy on juvenile justice will be launched next week. Read more

Guardian: Putting victims at the heart of justice 2nd November 2009

In today's Guardian, Juliet Lyon details restorative justice schemes: "Growing the adult prison population of the future, rather than acting to put things right, does little or nothing to prevent the next victim of crime." Read more

NI: Restorative Justice Scheme more effective than custodial sanctions. 29th October 2009

The Prison Reform Trust has found that the Northern Ireland Restorative Justice Scheme has been more effective at changing behaviour among young offenders than custodial sanctions. Read more

Working Group on Children's Rights Standards for the National Children Detention Centre at Oberstown, Lusk, Co. Dublin 8th October 2009 PDF documents

The Working Group on Children's Rights Standards for the National Children Detention Centre at Oberstown recommendations were from a consultation process with a range of stakeholders within and outside the criminal justice system in 2008. Read more

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