Irish Penal Reform Trust

Youth Justice

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

Children Held on Remand in Victoria: A Report on Sentencing Outcomes

2nd October 2020

This report by the Sentencing Advisory Council (Australia) considers the relationship between remand and sentencing, and identifies the proportion of remanded children who did not go on to receive a custodial sentence for their offending.

Review and Evaluation of Garda Youth Diversion Programmes 2019

25th September 2020

Reviews of 'Piot A and Pilot B', the 'Work to Learn Programme' and the QQI Co-ordinator Programme' have been published by the Department of Justice.

Why is diversion important for young people?

18th August 2020

Here, we summarise some of the processes involved in the Garda Youth Diversion Programme (GYDP), and outline the value of diversion from the full criminal justice system for young people.

Publication of Oberstown Annual Report 2019

23rd July 2020

The Annual Report 2019 highlights the characteristis of the young people in Oberstown care in 2019, reports a marked shift away from the use of restrictive regimes, and details the programmes which continue to have a positive impact on children and young people.

IPRT Submission to the Department of Justice on the Draft Youth Justice Strategy 2020-2026

30th June 2020

Adopting an evidence-informed approach, IPRT outlines four key areas of youth justice that should be reinforced or inserted into the Draft Youth Justice Strategy.

‘Our Shared Future’ – Draft Programme for Government 2020+

15th June 2020

IPRT strongly welcomes many of the proposals in the draft Programme for Government. In particular, we welcome that the document reflects all of the five recommendations IPRT campaigned on in advance of the 2020 General Election.

Extension of successful Bail Supervision Scheme which keeps children out of detention shows value of evidence-led initiatives

8th June 2020

MEDIA ADVISORY: The Bail Supervision Scheme keeps children and young people out of detention, helps children adhere to bail conditions, reduces reoffending, and reduces the use of custodial sanctions for children. Therefore, the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) welcomes the announcement by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr. Katherine Zappone, of the Scheme’s extension.

UK: Ending the Detention of Unsentenced Children during the COVID-19 Pandemic

18th May 2020

Custody is a damaging environment for children in normal times, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, conditions in custody have worsened for imprisoned children. The Howard League has produced guidance for legal practitioners on how to keep unsentenced children out of pre-trial detention.

IPRT welcomes Draft Youth Justice Strategy proposals to extend youth justice supports to young adults aged up to 24

4th May 2020

ADVISORY: Proposals to extend youth supports to young adults aged up to 24, place a positive duty on State agencies to work together, and a clear and consistent focus on reaching hard-to-reach groups are among a number of evidence-informed progressive elements included in the Draft Youth Justice Strategy.

Joint Committee on Justice and Equality Publish report on Spent Convictions (Oct 2019)

22nd November 2019

The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality held a public hearing in July 2019 on the issue of spent convictions. IPRT gave evidence as a witness in this hearing and the final report and recommendations were published in October 2019.

Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort.



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