Irish Penal Reform Trust

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.

An Inter-Agency Implementation Team oversees the implementation of the Youth Justice Action Plan and comprises representatives from: An Garda Síochána, the Irish Youth Justice Service, The Probation Service, the Irish Prison Service, Oberstown Children Detention Campus and Tusla (the Child and Family Agency).

IPRT welcomes the progress made and notes a high level of inter-agency co-operation between criminal justice agencies recorded throughout the progress report, and the strong emphasis on case-management, investment in diversion programmes, and the introduction of a pilot bail support scheme.

However, the high number of young people detained on remand continues to be of serious concern to IPRT. Figures from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) show there were 263 children remand orders in 2015 with an average length of stay of 24 days. Of these, 22 related to 13/14 year olds; 156 to 15/16 year olds; and 85 related to those aged 17.

In comparison, in 2015 there were 93 children detention orders made: 4 relating to 13/14 year olds and 89 relating to 15/16 year olds. No 17-year-olds received children detention orders as this age group continues to be committed under sentence to Wheatfield Place of Detention, an adult prison, in contravention of international children’s rights standards. The average length of stay under a children detention order in 2015 was just over 170 days.

In order to address the continued overuse of detention on remand for children, there is a need to concentrate on alternatives to detention. Therefore IPRT welcomes the further development of the Bail Supervision Scheme, diversion projects, alternative community sanctions including family conferencing and restorative justice during 2015 and 2016.

IPRT also welcomes the development and publication of crime data by criminal justice agencies and notes the importance of this data and evidenced-based research in order to inform policy and service provision.

Key points in relation to progress made related to five high-level goals are summarised below:

Action 1: Agencies working together to ensure public confidence in addressing young people in conflict with the law: 

  • The Youth Justice Action Plan is integrated into key policy frameworks including the National Framework for Children and Young People 2014-2020 ‘Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures.’  
  • Relevant agencies identifying young people as a distinct cohort and prioritising young people in Strategies, including a commitment by the Irish Prison Service and Probation Service in their Joint Strategy to ‘enhance age-appropriate prison based regimes’; a focus on targeted schemes for young people in conflict with the law in An Garda Síochána’s Policing Plan 2015; and the Courts Service published a ‘Children Court’ bench book for District Court Judges with a key emphasis on the Children’s Act 2001 and International Best Practice Standards for Children. 
  • In 2015, The Irish Youth Justice Service commenced a review of the Health Information & Quality Authority ‘Standards & Criteria for Children in Detention Schools.’

Action 2: Develop an Evidence Base to support more effective policies taking into account the voices of young people:

  • Compilation of statistics related to young people on remand and sentenced by the Irish Youth Justice Service and the Irish Prison Service.
  • Research on alcohol and drug misuse among young offenders, as well as recidivism rates undertaken by the Probation Service, while also developing research in affiliation with Dublin Institute of Technology on processes and outcomes of family conferencing.
  • Irish Youth Justice Service proposed undertaking research with a third-level partner on children and young people’s journey into detention
  • Oberstown Campus worked with EPIC (Empowering People in Care) to establish a Children’s Council to ensure the voices of young people detained are being heard.

Action 3: Review & Strengthen Targeted Interventions to reduce re-offending & divert young people away from the Criminal Justice System

  • Children Detention Schools linked in with YAP (Youth Advocacy Programme) to develop a pre-release pilot programme for children coming out of detention.
  • Agreements made in the delivery of psychiatry services under the ACTS (Assessment, Consultation and Therapy Services) in the Children Detention Schools.
  • The development of a more integrated, holistic approach for the care of children in Oberstown entitled Care, Education, Health, Offending and Planning for the Future (CEHOP) in 2015.
  • A key recommendation was the establishment of an interagency group to establish a diversion programme for 18-21 years olds as proposed by the Strategic Review Group on Penal Policy. 

Action 4: Promote and Increase the Use of Community Measures including Restorative Justice for Young People who offend

  • A Bail Supervision Scheme was established and is currently being piloted in Dublin with the aim of keeping young people out of custody. One of the key actions is the implementation of the Bail Supervision Scheme, which IPRT welcomes.
  • A Restorative Practice Strategic Forum was established with representatives from criminal justice agencies with Towards Excellence in Restorative Practice: A Quality Assurance Framework for Organisations and Practitioners published.

Action 5: Provide a Safe & Secure Environment & Necessary Support for detained young people to assist their reintegration into the community              

  • ACTS providing multi-disciplinary assessments and focused interventions for young people in detention.  
  • Integrated Sentencing and Pre-release Planning for children in Wheatfield Prison by an Integrated Sentence Management Officer  
  • Protocols developed between the Children Detention Schools and The Probation Service on guidance around joint working with children and young people entering detention, in detention and preparing for discharge      

Read more:

  1. The full Progress Report on Tackling Youth Crime-Youth Justice Action Plan 2014-2015 can be accessed here.
  2. Youth Justice has been a key area of IPRT’s work, advocating for the differential treatment for young adults between 18-24. For more on IPRT’s position, see our report on the Differential Treatment of Young Adults in the Criminal Justice System here.
  3. IPRT has carried out projects on the rights of children in detention, see Children’s Rights Behind Bars: A National Report and Detention of Children in Ireland: International Standards and Best Practice.
  4. IPRT has also previously advocated for an end to the imprisonment of children in St. Patrick’s Institution. See our briefing Detention of Children in St. Patrick’s Institution. 
December 2016

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