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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Beyond Youth Custody: Trauma and Young Offenders 30th November 2016

The recent ‘Trauma and Young Offenders’ report from Beyond Youth Custody (BYC) presents key findings from a review of the research and literature concerning trauma in the backgrounds of young people who offend. Read more

Round Up: Oberstown Review 19th September 2016

A round-up of IPRT statements and comments in the media on the announcement of a review of Oberstown Children Detention Campus by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone. Read more

Oberstown Management and Trade Unions must resolve issues urgently to ensure duty of care to children is not undermined 30th August 2016

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) has today called on the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Oberstown Management and trade unions to resolve the industrial relations issues immediately in order to ensure that their collective duty to the children in their care is fulfilled. Read more

Beyond Youth Custody Practitioner Guide 23rd August 2016

Beyond Youth Custody has published a guide to help practitioners support the transition of young people from custody back into the community. Read more

IPRT welcomes additional funding for youth justice initiatives 6th May 2016

IPRT warmly welcomes the statement issued yesterday (5th May 2016) by Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald TD that an additional €1.57m is to be provided for youth justice initiatives from the Dormant Accounts Fund under the 2016 Action Plan. Read more

Criminal Care – Children’s Homes and Criminalising Children 15th April 2016

The Howard League for Penal Reform has recently released a report "Criminal Care – Children’s Homes and Criminalising Children" on their research of how children living in children’s homes in England are being criminalised at excessively high rates compared to all other groups of children. Read more

2014 Report on the Garda Diversion Programme 22nd March 2016

The Department of Justice and Equality has published the 'Annual Report of the Committee Appointed to Monitor the Effectiveness of the Diversion Programme 2014’. Read more

Irish Examiner: Teens being ‘criminalised’ while in care of the State 7th March 2016

Writing in the Irish Examiner, Jennifer Hough reports that Ireland's "most troubled teenagers are being criminalised while in the care of the State — arrested in the secure therapeutic centres aiming to stabilise and rehabilitate them." Read more

UNCRC raise a number of concerns on Youth Justice in Ireland 4th February 2016

Following their recent examination of Ireland's compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child have released their 'Concluding Observations on the Combined Third and Fourth Periodic Reports of Ireland'. Read more

Youth justice issues at UNCRC 15th January 2016

Ireland is being examined at the UN in respect of its compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. IPRT's formal submissions were included as part of the Children’s Rights Alliance Parallel Report. Read more

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