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

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

Irish Times: Scheme sees drop in reoffenders 25th September 2009

A new scheme to manage hardened young offenders has seen a near two-thirds drop in reoffending levels, as reported in the Irish Times. Read more

Standards for the Inspection of Prisons in Ireland - Juvenile Supplement 18th September 2009 PDF documents

This document is a supplement to the 'Standards for the Inspection of Prisons in Ireland' which Judge Michael Reilly published on 24th July 2009. Read more

Reducing child imprisonment in England and Wales - lessons from abroad. 11th September 2009

A new report published by the Prison Reform Trust (UK) identifies a number of successful international approaches to reducing child and youth imprisonment and cutting crime. Read more

Evening Echo: Young People and our Justice System 10th August 2009

In the first part of a six-day series on youth justice, 'Evening Echo' Security Correspondent Ann Murphy talked to IPRT on the issues surrounding detention of young people in Ireland. Read more

Youth Justice: ‘Designing Effective Local Responses to Youth Crime’ 14th July 2009

The Irish Youth Justice Service (IYJS) has published a new report ‘Designing Effective Local Responses to Youth Crime: A baseline analysis of the Garda Youth Diversion Projects’. Read more

IPRT welcomes new report on children and juvenile justice 22nd June 2009

IPRT today welcomed the publication of “Children and Juvenile Justice: Proposals for Improvements” by Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights. Read more

"Problems for children in care": youth justice issues on RTÉ 'This Week' 21st June 2009

A report on RTÉ's 'This Week' looking at conditions for those in State care, particularly young offenders. IPRT Chair, Dr Ursula Kilkelly spoke on Youth Justice issues in Ireland. Read more

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