Irish Penal Reform Trust

Care and Justice: Children and Young People in Care and Contact with the Criminal Justice System

26th February 2019

Care and Justice Report CoverThe Irish Penal Reform Trust launched an independently commissioned exploratory research study on the connections between care and justice in Ireland on Tuesday 26th February 2019. Care and Justice: Children and Young People in Care and Contact with the Criminal Justice System was supported by a Private Donor Fund at the Community Foundation for Ireland.

Research evidence from several countries shows that children with care experience are over-represented in the criminal justice system but, to date, no research has been conducted on this topic in the Irish context. This report aimed to explore the extent to which children with care experience are over-represented in the Irish youth justice system. The report was authored by Dr Nicola Carr (University of Nottingham) and Dr Paula Mayock (Trinity College). 

The report highlights that contact with the youth justice system is a particular issue for a small cohort of young people. The association between care and justice is an area of concern, particularly at the ‘higher end’ of the youth justice system, that is, when children are prosecuted in the courts and are placed in detention. This is identified as an issue for children with multiple and complex needs, many of whom are accommodated within residential care. 

Systemic factors including the profile of care provision, the prosecution of children in care placements and the responsiveness of the youth justice system to children in care are explored.

This report identifies a lack of data in Ireland on the extent to which children in care come into contact with the criminal justice system. There is a lack of a coordinated policy between Tusla, care providers and An Garda Síochána in this area and the development of such a policy is recommended. The report also focuses on the transition of children from care into leaving care and aftercare and the lack of information on outcomes for this group.

The need for reform is outlined in 12 recommendations made in the report. These include:

  • A joint protocol aimed at addressing the involvement of children in care with the criminal justice system should be developed by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the Irish Youth Justice Service with the involvement of An Garda Síochána and Tusla.
  • The Irish Youth Justice Service should consider adaptations to the Bail Support Scheme to ensure equity of service provision for young people in care.
  • Tusla should develop a mechanism to systematically record and report on the numbers of children in care and those in receipt of aftercare services coming into contact with the criminal justice system.
  • In its review of the Youth Justice Action Plan, the Irish Youth Justice Service should consider the specific needs of care-experienced young people.
  • Tusla should revise its guidance on Complex Needs in Aftercare to provide explicit guidance on the needs and supports required for young people in contact with the criminal justice system. 

To read the report in full, click here

To read a summary of the recommendations, click here.

Supported by a Private Donor Fund at the Community Foundation for Ireland.

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