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CHILDREN AND DETENTION

A snapshot of the population on 13 May 2016 identifies that there was a total of 55 children detained within the juvenile justice system in Ireland. Of those 44 were detained within the Children Detention School system and a further eleven

  • 17 year olds were detained within the prison estate. Ireland currently has a twotiered approach to the detention of children which differentiates between young males and young females under 18 years. The Children Detention School system operates under the auspices of the DCYA and has a care, educational and rehabilitative ethos. It accommodates all detained females but only some detained males under 18 years. The 2001 Act abolished prison sentences for children but made provision for 16 and 17 year old males to be detained in St. Patrick’s Institution, a medium security place of detention within the prison estate. A report by the Inspector of Prisons in 2012 highlighted major concerns about the safety and protection of detainees and provided the catalyst to commence the transfer of most 16- and 17-year-old males out of St. Patrick’s Institution from 2013 onwards. While 16-year-old males were transferred to the Children Detention School system, the absence of suitable accommodation culminated in 17-year-old males on remand remaining in St. Patrick’s Institution until early 2015 and those under sentence being housed in a separate wing of an adult prison in West Dublin. A new 90-bed facility known as the National Children Detention Centre will replace the existing Children Detention School system and is expected to be fully operational in the latter part of 2016.[1] It will hold all children under
  • 18 years and will finally end the disparity in the treatment of young male and female detainees. Importantly, this will mark the long-awaited implementation of government policy to cease the practice of detaining children under 18 years in adult prison facilities.

As outlined at the beginning of this section, the population of children in the Children Detention School system and the Prison Service has fallen considerably since the implementation of the 2001 Act. However, a concerning and consistent feature has been the disproportionately high numbers of admissions of children on remand, relative to those serving sentences (Convery and Seymour 2016). This is especially notable in the context of research which identifies that many children detained on remand do not subsequently receive a custodial sentence or are necessarily remanded due to the seriousness of their offences or risk of re-offending (Freeman 2008; Seymour and Butler 2008). In these circumstances, it appears that practice is at odds with the legislative principle to use detention as a measure of last resort. A number of legislative provisions exist to protect children from excessive periods of detention. As outlined earlier in this chapter, the 2001 Act stipulates that children should be detained only as a measure of last resort and the period of detention imposed should not exceed the term imposed on an adult for the same offence. In a recent development, the Children (Amendment) Act 2015 introduced provision for children to receive 25 % (and up to 33 %) remission on their sentences for good behaviour in line with their adult contemporaries.

The detention system is in a period of transition and is likely to experience diverse challenges as legislative, organisational and practical arrangements for the National Children Detention Centre are finalised over 2016. It remains to be seen how the new arrangements for children’s detention in the Irish system will unfold in the coming years.

  • [1] The detention school estate based in Lusk Co. Dublin consisted of three institutions (OberstownBoys School, Oberstown Girls School and Trinity House) until 01 June 2016 when the legislationcame into effect to amalgamate them into the National Children Detention Centre.
 
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