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

The Irish Times: Grim chapter in criminal justice ends as St Patrick’s closes 7th April 2017

On Friday 7th April 2017, Minister for Justice and Equality, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald TD closed St. Patrick’s Institution. Read more

Ministerial Order to end sentencing of children to adult prison “momentous” 30th March 2017

IPRT has hailed as “momentous” the signing of a Ministerial Order today (Thursday 30th March 2017) by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone TD to end the sentencing of children to adult prison in Ireland. Read more

Le Chéile Evaluation: 'Reducing Youth Crime in Ireland' 30th March 2017

Young people who have fallen into crime reduce re-offending by 28% on average over the period of mentoring, a major evaluation report into the Le Chéile programme ‘Reducing Youth Crime in Ireland’ has revealed. Read more

thejournal.ie: Child offenders will no longer be detained in adult prisons 29th March 2017

On Tuesday 28th March 2017, Cabinet agreed to end the sentencing of children to adult prisons. Read more

Cabinet approves Ministerial Order to end imprisonment of children 29th March 2017

IPRT strongly welcomes the announcement by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone that she has secured cabinet approval towards ending the sentencing of children to Wheatfield Place of Detention. Read more

UK: Sentencing Council publishes new guidelines on sentencing children and young people and offenders who plead guilty 7th March 2017

The Sentencing Council (England & Wales) has published two new sentencing guidelines, to come into effect from 1st June 2017. One deals with how courts should make a reduction in sentence for offenders who plead guilty, and the other deals with the approach they should take when sentencing children and… Read more

2015 Report on the Garda Diversion Programme 25th January 2017

The Department of Justice and Equality has published the 'The Annual Report of the Committee Appointed to Monitor the Effectiveness of the Diversion Programme 2015'. Read more

UK: Review of the Youth Justice System in England and Wales 22nd December 2016

The Ministry of Justice has just published a comprehensive review of the Youth Justice System in England and Wales. Published in December 2016, the report outlines key issues and challenges within the system and a change in approach towards youth justice in the UK, moving away from punitive responses and… Read more

Progress Report on Youth Justice Action Plan published 21st December 2016

On 14th December 2016, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone TD and the Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, David Stanton TD published Tackling Youth Crime, Youth Justice Action Plan 2014-2018 - Progress Report 2014/2015. Read more

Detention of Children: International Standards and Best Practice 20th December 2016 PDF documents

A research report from IPRT on the application and implementation of international human rights standards to children detention in Ireland, and how the aims enshrined in these standards can be best achieved in the Irish context. Read more

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